Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty is a renowned cardiac surgeon. He is a Professor at the University Of Minnesota Medical School, USA and the Founder, Chairman of a chain of super-specialty hospitals including the Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City in Bangalore, India and the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Kolkata, India. He and his team are famous for pioneering neo-natal cardiac surgery as well as a unique concept of a ‘Health City’, a 2000-5000 bed conglomeration of multi-super specialty hospitals all within one campus. The Narayana Hrudayalaya Group, along with ISRO, is responsible for managing the world’s largest telemedicine program and has treated over 53,000 heart patients. Referred to as the Henry Ford of cardiac surgery by the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty was awarded the Padma Bhushan, third highest civilian award in the Republic of India, for Medicine – Cardiology this year, by the Government of India.
On behalf of Cure Talk, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Shetty. The interview is split in two parts and this part is where he gets candid and talks about his hospital chain, his days with Mother Teresa, and the world’s cheapest health insurance. Read on and enjoy the interview.
Q: Why did you choose cardiology to specialize in?
DS: I chose cardiac surgery because when I was a student studying in primary school Dr. Christian Bernard did the first heart transplant in Cape Town. My teacher described the operation in my class and that is the day I decided to become a heart surgeon. In fact, I wanted to become a heart surgeon well before I wanted to become a doctor.
Q: How did the idea of Hrudayalaya come about?
DS: Idea behind Narayana Hrudayalaya is a concept of affordable heart surgery and it became a reality after I left England in 1989 and started working at B.M Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata. In those days it cost Rs. 1, 40,000/- for a heart operation. Twenty years later we managed to reduce the cost to Rs. 75,000/-.
India requires 2.5 million heart surgeries a year and all the heart hospitals in the country put together perform less than 100,000 heart surgeries a year. In India heart attack is a young man’s disease unlike in the western world where it is the disease of the retired population. In my practice, it is not the young son bringing his old father for a bypass grafting it is the old father bringing his young son for a heart operation. Added to that we produce 600-800 children a day with heart disease and most of them require a heart operation. Unless we reduce the cost of heart surgery people will not be able to afford heart operation. Narayana Hrudayalaya performs about 35 major heart surgeries a day, largest number of heart surgeries anywhere in the world. This is the reason we get materials at a much lesser price, and we have very good results. Our hospital is accredited by Joint Commission of US just to prove that low cost does not mean poor quality of service or compromising standards.
Q: Tell us something about Yeshasvini, the world’s cheapest health insurance scheme and the birth of such an idea.
DS: Around eight years ago, our group conceptualized Yeshasvini during the time Karnataka State (Southern India) had drought. Farmers lost their capacity to pay for the healthcare. Therefore, we convinced government to launch a health insurance with a premium of 11 cents per month and government agreed to contribute 5 cents per month. Government became a re-insurer, we created a trust, and Yeshasvini was born with 1.7 million farmers paying 11 cents per month. Today, we have close to 4 million farmers paying 22 cents per month, we network with 400 hospitals across the state, and we have hired a third party administrator to manage the scheme. We believe that taxpayer’s money cannot pay for healthcare. Taxpayer’s money could pay for healthcare at a time when people retired at the age of sixty and died at the age of sixty-five. Today, people retire at the age of sixty and they celebrate their 95th birthday. People are going to live longer.
DS: I had the privilege of serving Mother Teresa as a doctor. I am a doctor, a person with scientific background. I truly believe that mother is not like us, she is definitely something superior to any human being I have seen. You could call it God like, but she is truly not like us. Every aspect of my life today has significant imprint of what Mother taught me.
To be continued…
- Cardiac Surgery Clinical Trials
- “Yes, I will survive!” My Mother’s Valiant Battle with Breast Cancer – Part 1
- Interview with Dr. Arthur Waldbaum, Owner and President of Downtown Women’s Health Care
- Breast Cancer Awareness and India: Part 2 on My Mothers Valiant Fight Against Breast Cancer
- Interview with Ann Becker, Director of Women’s Health Research (WHRAZ), Arizona