Feature

Indian medicine, coming soon to an island near you

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1740 (Published 25 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1740
  1. Suzy Frisch, freelance journalist
  1. 1Minneapolis, Minnesota
  1. suzyfrisch{at}yahoo.com

Innovator Devi Shetty brings his model of low cost, high quality healthcare to the US, via the Cayman Islands. Suzy Frisch reports

Cardiologist Devi Shetty knows that necessity is the mother of invention. He sees the need daily in the 2.5 million of his fellow Indians who require heart surgery—though only a fraction of that number receive it—and in the millions of undiagnosed and untreated diabetics who are his future cardiac patients.

His invention? Taking the principle of economies of scale and applying it to healthcare. In the past 13 years, Shetty has built a name for himself as an unparalleled innovator at his healthcare empire, Narayana Health (NH), which operates a network of 17 hospitals across India.

Among its many feats, NH has slashed the cost of open heart surgery to $1400 (£843; €1019) compared to costs ranging from $30 000 to $100 000 in the United States. And that reduced cost comes without sacrificing quality. Private Indian hospitals have infection and mortality rates that compare favorably to US hospitals, according to Health Affairs.1

By building 1000-bed hospitals with 20-plus operating rooms, NH performs 10% of the country’s heart surgeries. That volume means employing highly skilled physicians who complete hundreds more surgeries a year while increasing efficiency and quality through repetition.

Shetty also constantly finds ways to slash costs for medical devices and surgical supplies by bringing their manufacturing in-house. For his efforts, Shetty was named the “Henry Ford of heart surgery” by the Wall Street Journal and received one of India’s highest civilian honors for NH’s ability to bring medical care to all, regardless of their ability to pay.2

“Our whole concept is that we believe that in any part of the world, charity is not scalable. But a good business is scalable,” says Shetty, who first became …

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