Evolution Shift
A Future Look at Today
May 6th, 2013

Health City and Dr. Devi Shetty

In my last column here I wrote that I had the pleasure of seeing Health City on a recent trip to Grand Cayman Island.  This is the first hospital in the Western Hemisphere for the great Dr. Devi Shetty, his team and partners.  When completed in 2014, Health City not only will be a lower cost alternative for patients needing heart, cancer and eye surgery in North and South America, it will make clear how over priced and inefficient hospitals in the US really are.

Health City is a vision of Dr. Devi Shetty and is being supported by both the Caymanian government and Ascension Health Alliance from the U.S.    Health City is nothing less than the manifestation of the New Health Age and will be one of the most significant endeavors in the field of health care and medicine of this decade.

Since first learning about Dr. Shetty while researching “The New Health Age:  The Future of Health Care in America” in 2010 I have deeply admired him, what he is doing and his vision for a more empathetic, lower cost way to practice medicine.    For those of you that do not know of Dr. Shetty, this column and the links embedded will introduce you to the man, his vision, his innovative ways of operating a hospital and why he clearly represents a significant part of the future of the practice of medicine in this New Health Age.

More than 20 years ago, Dr. Shetty was asked to make a house call, something he didn’t usually do.  The house call was to visit and then treat Mother Teresa.  It was, he said, the first time he felt that a human could be the personification of a god.  He became her doctor and his compassionate journey to find ways to effectively and economically treat those in need began.

The series of four videos, 1-4 can be viewed at this site.  Watching all of them will allow you to see, hear and feel the power and compassion of his work and his vision.

It is not just simply that he practices medicine with grace and compassion, it is also how, as an entrepreneur, he reconfigured the practice of medicine.  Basically he brought the ideas of mass production and volume to medicine and at the same time increased the healthy outcomes for his patients.  He won an award from the Economist Magazine relative to this and has been sited by Fast Company as one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world.  Innovative because he rethinks and then reconfigures how to practice medicine.  Innovative because he performs surgeries at a fraction of the cost that US doctors do.  Innovative because these new practices and the dramatically lowered costs also come with a higher level of care and successful surgical outcomes than elsewhere.

As I wrote in the last column, an American needing a heart bypass surgery, can fly to India with spouse, have the surgery, recover, have the spouse stay in a nice hotel hear the hospital for a month and fly home, all at a cost lower than having just the surgery at some of the best cardiology hospitals in the U.S.  That points to the reality that in the U.S. we have a “pound of cure” health care system with costs out of control.  In the March 4, 2013 issue of TIME magazine, Steven Brill wrote a brilliant, detailed account of why health care costs in the US are so absurdly high.

The reason that Dr. Shetty is going to open Health City in the Cayman Islands is that he wants to show that lower costs and better outcomes can be done outside India. The Caymanian government wants to lead the way in the  “medical tourism” industry that is rapidly growing around the world.  Even the construction of Health City is reinventing how a hospital can be constructed.  In the U.S. it costs approximately $1.25 million per hospital bed to build a hospital.  Health City is on budget for $250,000 per bed.

Once Health City opens in 2014 it will redefine the procedures, practices, costs and outcomes of hospitals for the world.  Assuming that the quality of care remains as high or higher than it currently is in his 2,500 bed hospitals in Bangalore, it will challenge every hospital to change or explain why they can’t or won’t.

Health care is the only business I know of in the U.S. where the cost of something is largely not known at the time of purchase.  This is about to change as connectivity, efficiency, price competition, price transparency and comparative measurements of outcomes become the norm in health care around the world.

It is in that context that Dr. Shetty and Health City on Grand Cayman Islands will begin operations in a year.  The Cayman Islands are an hour’s flight from Miami.  Hello New Health Age!

[Note: you can see some pictures of yours truly in a hard hat at the construction site of Health City just posted on my Facebook page.]

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