When we started the CMS, we registered 200-300 complaints a day, but now, it is down to about 60 to 80 complaints. This is the power of information.
CIO: Seventy percent of India's population lives in rural areas, but 80 percent of doctors, and 60 percent of hospitals are in urban areas. That opens the door for telemedicine. What is its status and scope in India?
Dr. Devi Shetty: Right now, it does not have a big impact. One area where it works is radiology, but we do not have many senior radiologists in our hospitals. A single radiologist interprets the CT and MRI for all the group hospitals. We have treated over 53,000 heart patients in remote locations of India, and we believe that eventually very few patients will go to the hospital. They will visit one only in case of surgery. For medical problems, they will stay at home, use handheld devices to diagnose (ECG, blood tests etc.), and video conference with doctors.
Right now, it is happening in a very informal manner. For example, if the patient-doctor relationship extends beyond the confines of a clinic/hospital, the patient might be comfortable in interacting with the doctor over video conferencing.
We have a warfarin clinic based in Hubli managed by an ex-patient. All the patients treated in this clinic get the INR test done and SMS the report to him. He replies via SMS again with the dosage and intake timings after inspecting the report. All these are happening in a very informal manner.
CIO: When and how long before it happens formally?
Dr. Devi Shetty: I think these are all very chaotic developments. Eventually, with low cost connectivity, I expect things to change.
Also, there is no legal protection for the doctor. In the case of telemedicine, a doctor does not physically prescribe an antibiotic, and as result it is not legal. The government needs to frame laws for telemedicine for it to operate smoothly.
CIO: How do you maintain the balance between affordable healthcare and sustaining a successful business model?
Dr. Devi Shetty: Charity is not scalable. However, good business principles are. At Narayana Hrudayalaya, this is what we always keep in mind.
CIO: Where is healthcare in India heading to?
Dr. Devi Shetty: India will become the first country in the world to dissociate healthcare from affluence. Within ten years, every Indian will have access to high-tech healthcare with dignity. India will prove to the world that the wealth of a nation has nothing to do with the quality of healthcare its citizens can avail.
This is possible only because we produce the largest number of doctors, nurses, and medical technicians in the world. Outside the U.S., ours is the only country to have the largest number of USFDA-approved drug manufacturing units in the world. We have everything going for a phenomenal healthcare delivery model. The only missing link is that patients do not have enough money for healthcare. That will be addressed soon too. For example, around 10 years ago, we convinced the state of Karnataka to launch a health insurance plan called 'Yashaswini Micro Health Insurance', which operates on a premium of five rupees per month. Today, we have close to 4,000,000 farmers who have availed the benefits of this insurance scheme. Over a period of 10 years, more than 450,000 patients have undergone various types of operations, including major heart operations, at a cost of just Rs 5 per month.
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