Many studies show that America’s spending on health care is soaring, yet its medical outcomes remain mediocre. Mark McClellen of the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, says that a big problem is the overuse of technology. Whether or not a scan is needed, the system usually pays if a doctor orders it—and the scan might help defend the doctor against a malpractice claim. “The root cause is not greed, but tremendous technological progress imposed upon a fractured health system,” says Thomas Lee of Partners Community HealthCare, a health provider in Boston.[emphasis mine]. My parents, of course, receive their medical care in India. My dad had his cataract operation at Aravind, which the Economist article points to for the way it keeps costs low through specialization and financial innovation:
Rather than rely on government handouts or charity, Aravind’s founders use a tiered pricing structure that charges wealthier patients more (for example, for fancy meals or air-conditioned rooms), letting the firm cross-subsidise free care for the poorest. ... Aravind also benefits from its scale. Its staff screen over 2.7m patients a year via clinics in remote areas, referring 285,000 of them for surgery at its hospitals. International experts vouch that the care is good, not least because Aravind’s doctors perform so many more operations than they would in the West that they become expert. Furthermore, the staff are rotated to deal with both paying and non-paying patients so there is no difference in quality. Monitor’s new report argues that Aravind’s model does not just depend on pricing, scale, technology or process, but on a clever combination of all of them.Whereas Apollo, where my mom once had surgery, keeps costs low while being technologically on par with Western hospitals.
Unlike the hidebound health systems of the rich world, he says, “in our country’s patient-centric health system you must innovate.” This does not mean adopting every fancy new piece of equipment. Over the years he has rejected surgical robots and “keyhole surgery” kit because the costs did not justify the benefits. Instead, he has looked for tools and techniques that spare resources and improve outcomes.Of course, low cost is relative. My mom complained that Apollo cost a lot. But that was before she had to go visit a dentist when she was visiting us in the US. She then stopped complaining about how much Apollo costs.