Sunday, November 22, 2009

Medical Tourism: The factory model of Heart Surgery

There is an article in the weekend edition of Wall Street journal that makes for an interesting read that features The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery, Devi Shetty. Tarticle touches on multiple themes:
  • Cost cutting: How Dr. Devi Shetty is cutting costs (and not quality): 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."
  • Cost cutting without impacting quality: 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.
  • Expansion of Medical Tourism: 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. . . . 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.

With the healthcare debate in the U.S reaching a crescendo, one is sure to see more articles of these genera. If nothing else, it will help Americans get a better understanding of the healthcare best-practices elsewhere in the world.

Links of interest