Devi Shetty, heart surgeon turned businessman, has a vision for India — cut-price, life-saving surgery for those who cannot afford it otherwise. Shetty has created 21 healthcare centers around India with a difference; by trimming down operational costs, the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery has been sliced in half in the last two decades.
In the surgeon’s centers, cardiac surgery costs 95,000 rupees ($1,583).
The doctors go without air conditioning, use cheap scrubs and cut out pre-operation procedures deemed unnecessary.
In comparison, the same operation costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. If one entrepreneurial surgeon can cut costs, why can’t others?
According to Shetty, it is possible — but current pricing is “predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency.”
However, the changing face of healthcare worldwide may eventually prompt better pricing.
“It shows that costs can be substantially contained,” said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation. “It’s possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost.”
Cutting costs is vital in India, where the majority of the population lives on less than $2 a day. However, when you consider that many in developed countries and economies also struggle to pay healthcare bills when they fall sick, cost-effective measures should also be put in place elsewhere, including the United States.
A number of organizations are watching the experiment with interest. Shetty hopes to eventually bring down the cost of cardiac surgery to $800 by using local resources and capitalizing on Asian companies entering the medical device market, which will drive down equipment prices.