The Walmart of Indian healthcare, Narayana Hrudayalaya (“God’s compassionate home” in Sanskrit) is changing the medical system in the country of 1.2 billion people, most of whom cannot afford treatment. Founded by well-known heart surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty after a life-changing meeting with Mother Teresa, Narayana Hrudayalaya opened its doors in 2001 with its first cardiac center in Bangalore.
That facility has since grown into a “health city”, as Dr. Shetty describes it – multiple care centers spread across 35 acres, plus hospitals managed or owned by Narayana Hrudayalaya in other cities. In addition, laptops equipped with Skype allow surgeons to extend their expertise to more establishments throughout the country and as far as Africa.
Unlike private hospitals in India that welcome only well-off patients, Narayana Hrudayalaya focuses more on the underprivileged.
“We don’t look at them as outsiders,” Dr. Shetty says. “We look at them as customers.”
By negotiating with and purchasing equipment directly from manufacturers, Narayana Hrudayalaya is able to cut down on expenses. Furthermore, surgeons are paid a fixed salary rather than per operation, so the hospital’s costs actually decrease when more operations are performed. And Dr. Shetty and his fellow surgeons do carry out more procedures than the average doctor, thanks to an amplified support staff that takes care of their paperwork for them.
Narayana Hrudayalaya also offers a micro-insurance program which lets farmers shell out only 22 cents in monthly premiums. Discounted rates are counterbalanced by patients who pay in full or avail of extra benefits. Surgeons receive a P&L statement of the previous day daily so they can determine if they need to increase their number of full-paying patients (unless there’s an emergency).
Narayana Hrudayalaya CEO Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi explains, “When you look at financials at the end of the month, you’re doing a postmortem. When you look at it daily, you can do something.”
“More than 100 years after the first heart surgery, less than 10 percent of the world’s population can afford it,” says Dr. Shetty. “That’s why we concentrate on the mechanics of delivery. It’s the Walmart approach.”