Saturday, November 21, 2009

"The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery"

The Wall Street Journal's Geeta Anand published a fascinating article on Dr. Devi Shetty, dubbed "The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery." That is, Dr. Shetty has created a veritable factory for surgical procedures. And in good factory fashion--a pattern as old as the industrial revolution--the price has plummeted. Whereas the typical US hospital charges between $20,000 and $100,000 for an open-heart procedure, Shetty charges $2000. Now that's bending the curve!

There is a catch: Shetty's hospital is in Bangalore, India. Prices for everything tend to be lower in India, so it's not quite fair to compare his facility, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, to an American hospital. And of course, we must always be mindful of quality and safety.

But the larger lesson is clear enough: Mass production is the only way to make things both cheaper and better, be it autos, or cell phones, or medical procedures. Yes, there will always be an art to medicine, but there's always going to be a science, to, as well as engineering. And if the science and engineering get cheaper and better, then the art, too, will be better.

For fun, the Journal adds a black and white slideshow. In one of the slides, screengrabbed above, we see a plaque with words that could have easily been on the desk of any American inventor/visionary: "Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done."

And so as we watch the healthcare debate unfold, we might keep asking ourselves: One way or another, are the political changes that we are seeing in Washington going to make it easier, or harder, for an American Dr. Shetty to bring the same blessings of mass production back to the US?


  1. BTW the 1st time I learned about surgical mass production was in an article about how the Russians were using it about 30 yrs. ago. I'm surprised that we haven't employed it here in the states.
    One other thing, I would like to have seen more detail regarding India's standard of living as a comparison between the $2k vs $20K.

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