The Man who invented McSurgery

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dr v.jpg
I am not an idea man, the task is not to aspire to some heaven but to make everyday life divine."- Dr. V

Wall Street Journal has an obituary of Govindappa Venkataswamy, eye-care pioneer (1918-2006), founder of the Aravind Eye Care System ;

“With 2.4 million served, the Aravind Eye Care System in India is in a way the McDonald's of cataract surgery: efficient, effective, influential and -- rare for health care in the developing world -- a clear financial success.

It began with one man, Govindappa Venkataswamy, an ophthalmologist who died July 7 at age 87 after a long illness. Dr. V, as he was universally known, created one of the largest eye-care systems in the world, catering largely to the poor in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. He was inspired, Aravind says, by the assembly-line model of McDonald's founder Roy Kroc -- learned during a visit to Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Ill.

Building on those lessons, he created a system for sight-saving cataract surgeries that produces enviable medical outcomes in one of the poorest regions of the globe. Its rapid expansion over three decades was not built through government grants, aid-agency donations or bank loans. Instead, Dr. V took the unusual step of asking even poor patients to pay whenever they could, believing the volume of paying business would sustain the rest. Poor people with cataracts in Tamil Nadu can get their sight restored for about $40. If they can't afford that, it's free."

"Starting with an 11-bed clinic in 1976, Dr. V's system is now a five-hospital system. His model became the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, and is being copied in hospitals around the subcontinent. The cheap, high-quality implantable lenses the system manufactures are exported to more than 80 countries around the world, Aravind says. Dr. Venkataswamy's basic insight was that health care can be marketed to the poor if a program is closely tailored to a local niche, something that has come to be known as social marketing. In a country with, by some estimates, 20 million blind eyes -- 80% of them due to curable cataracts -- the appeal for patients was financial. "A blind person is a mouth with no hands," is an Indian saying that Dr. V liked to quote. In India, health professionals say, the years of life left to those who go blind can be counted on one hand. With sight restored, the patient can return to work.

The Aravind system offers services that range from a simple pair of spectacles to optical oncology. The bulk of surgeries are to treat cataracts -- removing the cataract and replacing it with an artificial intraoptical lens.

The assembly-line approach is most evident in the operating room, where each surgeon works two tables, one for the patient having surgery, the other for a patient being prepped. In the OR, doctors use state-of-the-art equipment such as operating microscopes that can swivel between tables. Surgeons typically work 12-hour days, and the fastest can perform up to 100 surgeries in a day. The average is 2,000 surgeries annually per surgeon -- nearly 10 times the Indian national average. Despite the crowding and speed, complication rates are vanishingly low, the system says.

Outside the operating rooms, conditions are as spartan as the tables at a fast-food restaurant: Often only a straw mat on a ward floor for postsurgical recovery. Patients who pay more than the basic $40 -- about 30% of patients -- can receive cushier treatment such as private rooms for extended recovery, and hot meals…”

Via Acumen Fund Blog.

Related;
Yesterday, a great hero passed away
The Perfect Vision of Dr. V.
From socialist rags to competitive riches

Multimedia;
A Discussion the Dr. V
See also this TED speech by Larry Brialliant

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MAXIDEX WARNING

I had eye surgery and in the post-op pack was MAXIDEX 9(dexamethasone ) drops by Alcon Labs. Two days later I was BLIND Other complications are optic nerve damage, corneal damage and secondary infection


USE EPOCRATES.COM TO VERIFY

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on August 7, 2006 3:49 PM.

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