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HEART DAY: How Dr Devi Shetty’s ₹3,151 Crores Narayana Hridyalaya is taking care of India’s heart

Even in a country boasting of 900,000 odd doctors, 67-year-old Devi Prasad Shetty stands out from the crowd—and how.

Over a career spanning more than three decades, Shetty has conducted over 15,000 heart surgeries—including India’s first neonatal cardiac surgery in 1992. He interestingly holds the  distinction of serving as Mother Teresa’s personal physician.

In 2003, he also holds the record of designing the world’s cheapest comprehensive insurance scheme for farmers, Yeshasvini Cooperative Farmer’s Health Care Scheme, which provides cover to poor farmers across 805 surgical procedures for just Rs18 every month. For his exceptional services, Shetty received the country’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in the year 2012.

Image Credits: Saveaheart.my

EARLY LIFE

Dr. Shetty finished his post-graduate work in General Surgery from Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore.

Married to Shakuntala, he has 4 sons named Ameya, Anish,Varun and Viren.

When he was a school student, he got inspired by the South African surgeon, Christiaan Barnard who was about to perform an open heart surgery. He began delving into the study of heart surgeries as a result.

He decided to pursue more medical education and transform people’s lives. Dr Shetty completed a Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons (FRCS) from England.

Devi Prasad Shetty returned to India in 1989. He successfully performed the first neonatal heart  transplant surgery on a 9-day-old baby Ronnie in 1992. Initially he worked at B.M. Birla Hospital in Kolkata.

He operated on Mother Teresa, after she had a heart attack and served as her personal physician.

Dr Shetty strongly believes that the healthcare cost can be reduced by 50% if hospitals adopt the idea of economies of scale. After some time, Devi Prasad Shetty moved to Bangalore and started the Manipal Heart Foundation with a financial contribution from his father-in-law.

Image Credits: Fortune India

INCEPTION OF NARAYANA HRUDAYALAYA

Devi Prasad Shetty founded Narayana Hrudayalaya, a multi-specialty hospital in 2001 in Bommasandra, Bangalore. Shetty set up Narayana Hrudayalaya in 2001 with the motto: ‘None shall be turned away because they can’t pay.’ It is, as a UNDP case study puts it, a “combination of compassion, high quality medical know-ledge and skills, and an astute sense of making the business work for the poor”.

Low cost health care Treatment

Since Dr Devi Prasad Shetty is keen to help the poor, aims for his hospitals to make use of economies of scale, all his efforts in the field of medicine are directed at lower cost heart surgeries for the benefit of poor patients across the country.

Shetty aims to reduce operating costs by using cross ventilation instead of air conditioning. That has reduced the cost of coronary bypass surgery to almost 95,000 rupees.

All NH hospitals operate heart surgeries at one-tenth of the cost as compared to the hospitals in the USA. NH treats most of its patients who are from rural and underprivileged backgrounds.

  • NH treats over 2 lakh inpatients
  • NH treats 20  lakh out-patients
  • Perorms 12% of the 130,000 heart surgeries in India(8 times more than any hospital that does heart operations)

“The annual need is two million heart surgeries in India, So if we can push the surgeries we do to about 20 per cent, the cost will go down considerably. It will further go down if we have more beds. Our margins will also improve significantly.”

Image Credits: The Economic Times

CRISIS IN HEALTHCARE

A mixed health system has evolved by default with uncoordinated services in both public and private sectors. Weak regulatory systems have resulted in a lack of standardisation in quality and healthcare costs also add to it an erosion of ethics in clinical practice. Both rural and urban primary health care services are in complete disarray. However, growing prosperity has seen an uptick in demand for high quality medical care and increased private sector participation.

India needs to add 100,000 beds the coming decade at an investment of US $50 billion. A staggering shortage of qualified medical professionals, despite the country having the largest number of medical colleges globally (381) that churn out the highest numbers, about 50,000 medical graduates a year is also a worrying sign.

THE WAY AHEAD

NH is still far from being truly pan-Indian. As much as 83 per cent of its revenue comes from two clusters, the Karnataka cluster and its operations in the Northeast cluster. But that’s true of India’s other big two, Apollo and Fortis too. Since all three have distinct growth models, direct comparisons are quite irrelevant.

Financial analysts reckon that NH is at an inherent disadvantage given the geographies in which it operates. Though advances in health technologies tend to drive up costs, Dr Shetty sees novel ways to improve on care delivery emerging with digital connected health. NH already had transferred electronic medical records on the Cloud way before others giving them a competitive advantage and ramping up health service delivery.

Dr Devi Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya is still very much a work in progress but boosted by Shetty’s iconic appeal and it’s strong digital foundation, it aims to take care of more poor and needy people’s hearts. From its humble beginning to it’s assuring presence in the areas it operates in, the Narayan Hridyalaya juggernaut needs to roll on for the sake of the country.

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