Saturday, November 21, 2009

economies of scale and $2,000 heart surgeries (without insurance)

From Geeta Anand in the WSJ...

Hair tucked into a surgical cap, eyes hidden behind thick-framed magnifying glasses, Devi Shetty leans over the sawed open chest of an 11-year-old boy, using bright blue thread to sew an artificial aorta onto his stopped heart.

As Dr. Shetty pulls the thread tight with scissors, an assistant reads aloud a proposed agreement for him to build a new hospital in the Cayman Islands that would primarily serve Americans in search of lower-cost medical care. The agreement is inked a few days later, pending approval of the Cayman parliament....

Dr. Shetty...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...

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...

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....

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....

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...A handful of U.S. insurance plans now give people the choice to be treated in other countries....

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...

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....

Cardiac surgeons at Dr. Shetty's hospitals are paid the going rate in India, between $110,000 and $240,000 annually, depending on experience...Dr. Shetty was paid almost $500,000 last year, according to the group's audited financial statements.

Here, too, Dr. Shetty finds additional savings on the per-patient cost. His surgeons perform two or three procedures a day, six days a week. They typically work 60 to 70 hours a week, they say. Residents work the same number of hours. In comparison, surgeons in the U.S. typically perform one or two surgeries a day, five days a week, operating fewer than 60 hours....

4 Comments:

At November 24, 2009 at 9:07 AM , Blogger Jenna said...

Wow! That's amazing. I told a co-worker about this post and she was very surprised that the free market concept could actually work/is working in real life for healthcare!

One can only hope that we here in the US will someday wake up to the idea.

 
At January 14, 2013 at 2:22 AM , Blogger We Care India said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At January 19, 2013 at 2:46 AM , Blogger We Care India said...

Heart surgery involves a lot of precision , need accuracy and performing the surgery requires use of cutting - edge technologies such as 256 slice CT scan, Cardiac MRI, PET scan, SPECT thallium, 3D echocardiography, Contrast echocardiography and Robotic surgery, to name a few that are available in the world class hospitals in India. These technologies at an affordable cost have lead to an increase in the success rate of Heart Operations in India. heart surgery in india


Cardiac hospitals in India
Spine surgery India

 
At July 14, 2015 at 11:39 PM , Blogger shanta said...

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