Monday, March 25, 2013

Why medical care is so poor in India

Every once in a while , I get cynical and skeptical. Newspapers are full of scams and crooks , and the world seems to be a dark and depressing place .  However, I then come across genuinely good people, who renew my hope and optimism in humanity , and I start believing that there is some good in this world after all. The Aravind Eye Care story is a great example of what I mean.

I was invited to give a presentation on how putting patients first helps to improve treatment outcomes at the Prism 2013 conference on health management , which Aravind Eyecare organized. While I had heard a lot of great things about Aravind Eyecare , this is the first time when I actually got to see what they do in real life.
What's really amazing is not that they can accomplish so much on a shoe-string budget, without any external funding or governmental support – what I found remarkable is how humble everyone in the organization is , right from the CEO to the housekeeping staff. They all seem to be imbued with a sense of mission - and it's heartwarming to see that it's possible to do good , no matter where in the world you are.

While they do so much great stuff , what's startling is how modest they are about it  ! Unlike most organizations , who want to extract a pound of publicity for every penny of work they do, the Aravind Eyecare people seem to be exactly the opposite. Their focus is on accomplishing their mission - and do this devotedly it and wholeheartedly, without caring about media attention or publicity.

What’s really ironic is that there are such few doctors in India who are aware about the phenomenal work this organization does. They seem to be much more well known in the US than in India , and I think this is a reflection of how skewed and perverted the priorities of Indian media are. Whenever the media carries a story about the Indian healthcare industry , they dutifully interview the CEOs of Fortis and Apollo – but they do not talk to the CEO of Aravind ! What sense does this make ? When you have a real life story of someone has been delivering healthcare effectively , consistently and efficiently for many years , for a fraction of the cost of what anyone else in the world can do , why aren’t we willing to learn lessons from them? Why do the CEOs of the large corporate hospitals , who are just out to make more profit, hog all the publicity and media attention ?

The irony is that MBA students at Harvard University study Aravind Eyecare , so they can learn what makes them so successful. However, no Indian MBBS medical student has any idea about how Arvind is able to accomplish so much with so little ! If we refuse to learn from our homegrown success stories, it's hardly surprising that Indian doctors will continue doing a bad job of providing cost effective humane medical care.

While spending time with the Arvind team made me proud to be an Indian, I am sad , depressed and unhappy that we Indians give such little credit to the real heroes in our midst !



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