By Austen Moye
The U.S. healthcare system is in disarray. From Obamacare to Medicaid, no one can seem to agree on one singular plan. While the United States has been struggling to find a healthcare solution, there has been a genius named “Dr.V” in India who seems to have it all figured out.
Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, more well known as Dr. V, started Aravind Eye Care Hospital in 1976 after recognizing the immense need for eye care solutions at affordable costs in his surrounding community. Many members of the community were plagued by cataracts, poor vision, or other issues that limited their eyesight. Without adequate vision, a large number of these people could not work to provide for their families, nor contribute as functioning members of society.
Despite bleak circumstances, Dr. V was motivated and determined to facilitate lasting change. While the cost of a similar eye surgery would cost thousands of dollars in the U.S., Dr. V came up with a simplified yet innovative way to perform a sight-restoring operation for under $100, if not free for patients who were not able pay. Not only is this surgical method much cheaper than in traditional eye clinics, but it is much more accessible as well. Dr. V believes that everyone has a right to receive treatment, even if they did not have any means of transportation. So he developed mobile clinics that would travel to different villages in the surrounding community to make sure everyone who needed it, could receive an operation. Through his amazing work, Dr. V personally completed over 100,000 successful eye surgeries, and had a transformative impact on countless more lives.
But how is the Aravind model relevant for the U.S. healthcare industry? For starters, innovation. With all of the advanced technology at the disposal of U.S. hospitals, doctors, and clinics, many procedures should be relatively simple and easy — yet many cost ridiculous amounts of money to undergo. By focusing on maximizing profits, the U.S. healthcare industry predominantly serves only those who can afford high-quality care, but is missing out on an entire market segment. Nearly 30 million Americans do not have health insurance, and another significant portion are not adequately insured. Innovations that make expensive procedures simpler and cheaper could help U.S. healthcare businesses capitalize on the large portion of the population that needs care but does not have access. While it does not maximize profits, Aravind’s business model is profitable serving the poor because it provides low-cost care to a high volume of people. U.S. healthcare businesses could do the same — the only issue being persuading shareholders to forego some profits in order to help more people, which is unlikely to happen in this capitalist society.
A second lesson that the U.S. healthcare system can take out of Aravind’s book is how accessible their treatment is. Depending on what location you are in, whether it be state, city, or neighborhood, the access to medical care varies. The U.S needs to make more standardized care available across the board no matter where you live so that all citizens can have access to basic healthcare services. In any case, we could definitely use our own “Dr. V” as some reform needs to be made.
As a whole, the mission of Aravind seems to help the most people in the most effective and efficient manner. In stark contrast, the U.S. healthcare industry seems to have a different goal — to maximize profit through medicine. The U.S. healthcare industry has the opportunity to improve many more lives, but to do so, needs to stop being run like a business.