Improved outcomes at one-tenth the price!
For whatever reason - even though freedom from government in other market segments continuously leads to improving quality at ever lower prices - we seem to believe healthcare is different and that less freedom and more government gets the best outcomes. This article is as clear a repudiation of that ideology as I've seen.
Great quote from the article: "In health care you can't do one big thing and reduce the price," Dr. Shetty says. "We have to do 1,000 small things."
Call us skeptical that government will successfully accomplish that. Government's batting average is 0.000 so far, but perhaps this enormously complex sector of our society will be the one they get it right on...
At this point though, the socialist movement has gained such enormous momentum that you could literally bring the proponents of nationalized healthcare into the future and show them they are wrong and they still would not change their mind. Commitment and consistency bias is that powerful.
Link to the WSJ article
The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery In India, a Factory Model for Hospitals Is Cutting Costs and Yielding Profits
Dr. Shetty, who entered the limelight in the early 1990s as Mother Teresa's cardiac surgeon, offers cutting-edge medical care in India at a fraction of what it costs elsewhere in the world. His flagship heart hospital charges $2,000, on average, for open-heart surgery, compared with hospitals in the U.S. that are paid between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of the surgery.
The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion.
His model offers insights for countries worldwide that are struggling with soaring medical costs, including the U.S. as it debates major health-care overhaul.
"Japanese companies reinvented the process of making cars. That's what we're doing in health care," Dr. Shetty says. "What health care needs is process innovation, not product innovation."
At his flagship, 1,000-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, surgeons operate at a capacity virtually unheard of in the U.S., where the average hospital has 160 beds, according to the American Hospital Association.
Narayana's 42 cardiac surgeons performed 3,174 cardiac bypass surgeries in 2008, more than double the 1,367 the Cleveland Clinic, a U.S. leader, did in the same year. His surgeons operated on 2,777 pediatric patients, more than double the 1,026 surgeries performed at Children's Hospital Boston.
Next door to Narayana, Dr. Shetty built a 1,400-bed cancer hospital and a 300-bed eye hospital, which share the same laboratories and blood bank as the heart institute. His family-owned business group, Narayana Hrudayalaya Private Ltd., reports a 7.7% profit after taxes, or slightly above the 6.9% average for a U.S. hospital, according to American Hospital Association data.
The group is fueling its expansion plans through private equity, having raised $90 million last year. The money is funding four more "health cities" under construction around India. Over the next five years, Dr. Shetty's company plans to take the number of total hospital beds to 30,000 from about 3,000, which would make it by far the largest private-hospital group in India.
At that volume, he says, he would be able to cut costs significantly more by bypassing medical equipment sellers and buying directly from suppliers.
Then there are the Cayman Islands, where he plans to build and run a 2,000-bed general hospital an hour's plane ride from Miami. Procedures, both elective and necessary, will be priced at least 50% lower than what they cost in the U.S., says Dr. Shetty, who hopes to draw Americans who are uninsured or need surgery their plans don't cover.
By next year, six million Americans are expected to travel to other countries in search of affordable medical care, up from the 750,000 who did so in 2007, according to a report by Deloitte LLP. A handful of U.S. insurance plans now give people the choice to be treated in other countries.Some in India question whether Dr. Shetty is taking his high volume model too far, risking quality."
But Jack Lewin, chief executive of the American College of Cardiology, who visited Dr. Shetty's hospital earlier this year as a guest lecturer, says Dr. Shetty has done just the opposite -- used high volumes to improve quality. For one thing, some studies show quality rises at hospitals that perform more surgeries for the simple reason that doctors are getting more experience. And at Narayana, says Dr. Lewin, the large number of patients allows individual doctors to focus on one or two specific types of cardiac surgeries.
In smaller U.S. and Indian hospitals, he says, there aren't enough patients for one surgeon to focus exclusively on one type of heart procedure.
Narayana surgeon Colin John, for example, has performed nearly 4,000 complex pediatric procedures known as Tetralogy of Fallot in his 30-year career. The procedure repairs four different heart abnormalities at once. Many surgeons in other countries would never reach that number of any type of cardiac surgery in their lifetimes.
Dr. Shetty's success rates appear to be as good as those of many hospitals abroad. Narayana Hrudayalaya reports a 1.4% mortality rate within 30 days of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one of the most common procedures, compared with an average of 1.9% in the U.S. in 2008, according to data gathered by the Chicago-based Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
It isn't possible truly to compare the mortality rates, says Dr. Shetty, because he doesn't adjust his mortality rate to reflect patients' ages and other illnesses, in what is known as a risk-adjusted mortality rate. India's National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers asks hospitals to provide their mortality rates for surgery, without risk adjustment.
Dr. Lewin believes Dr. Shetty's success rates would look even better if he adjusted for risk, because his patients often lack access to even basic health care and suffer from more advanced cardiac disease when they finally come in for surgery.
In a second-floor operating room one October morning, Dr. Shetty finished sewing a new aorta onto the heart of his 11-year-old patient. The process provided an example of how he slashes costs. Four years ago, the sutures would have been bought from a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. Today they are made by a Mumbai company, Centennial Surgical Suture Ltd.
Four years ago, Dr. Shetty scrutinized his annual bill for sutures -- then $100,000 and rising by about 5% each year. He made the switch to cheaper sutures by Centennial, cutting his expenditures in half to $50,000.
"In health care you can't do one big thing and reduce the price," Dr. Shetty says. "We have to do 1,000 small things."
He says he would also like to find lower-cost versions of his priciest medical equipment. But the Chinese makers that have brought good quality, cheaper machines to market don't yet have enough local service centers to ensure regular maintenance.
So he is still buying equipment from General Electric Co. He pays $60,000 for echocardiography machines, which use sound waves to create a moving image of the heart, and $750,000 for cardiac catheterization labs, which produce images of blood flow in the arteries and allow surgeons to clear some blockages using stents and other devices.
V. Raja, head of GE's health-care business in India, declined to comment on specific pricing, but says Dr. Shetty drives a hard bargain and wrestles some savings because he is such a big customer. Between Narayana Hrudayalaya and another hospital he runs in Calcutta, Dr. Shetty's group performs 12% of India's cardiac surgeries, Mr. Raja says.
Dr. Shetty also gets more use out of each machine by using some of them 15 to 20 times a day, at least five times more than the typical U.S. hospital.