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"This is India's moment and we are going to grab it" says leading cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty

New Delhi: India is poised to become the first country to dissociate health care from wealth and the country will prove to the world that the wealth of the nation or that of a particular family has nothing to do with the quality of healthcare its citizens will enjoy, says Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, prominent cardiac surgeon and Founder and Chairman of Narayana Health.
In a podcast hosted by industry body CII, discussing how innovation is reshaping businesses and presenting vast opportunities across various sectors in India, he said India providing world-class healthcare will not take 30-50 years.
"India is going to do (provide world-class healthcare) in next 5-7 years. This transformation will happen with the understanding that universal healthcare with the taxpayers' money is an illusion. Whereas universal health insurance is a reality which can be done and which can be accomplished," Dr Shetty said.
He floated the idea that countries instead of providing universal healthcare must provide universal insurance guarantees.
He argued that it is difficult to provide universal healthcare in countries with large population bases. He backed his arguments saying that those countries that have managed to provide universal healthcare systems were largely less populated countries. Also, he asserted that those offering universal healthcare have a high tax-to-GDP ratio, and are spending a high percentage of their GDP in health.
In India, a total of 1.2-1.5 per cent of the Budget is spent in the healthcare sector.
"No single country with large population including US can offer free healthcare with taxpayers' money. Simply not done," Dr Shetty said.
"Our option is to switch from current expectation to universal health insurance."
This universal insurance program, according to him, hasn't happened because of an inherent trust deficit between stakeholders -- insurance companies, hospitals, and patients.
"So when three important stakeholders in any business do not trust each other, that business cannot be scaled up," he explained and suggested that to remove the trust deficit hospitals must become insurance service providers.
"If my hospital Group becomes an insurance company, then when I tell a patient that you need a bypass grafting, he will gladly agree because I am going to pay for it. Then the conflict of interest problem is addressed," he argued.
Hospitals such as Narayana must become insurance providers because the bulk of the heart surgeries are done in those hospitals.
"We have no incentive to prevent people from heart attacks, but that will change the moment we become an insurance company. So this is a motivation for us to become a health insurance company," he said.
India has already moved towards a universal insurance program in public healthcare through its flagship scheme Ayushman Bharat. As of January this year, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri - Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) has crossed the milestone of 30 crore Ayushman cards. The flagship scheme being implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) aims to provide health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to 12 Crore beneficiary families.
Asked how AI and GenAI were going to transform the healthcare system globally, Dr Devi Shetty agreed that it would have an impact but, noted that they would only remain as a tool.
"AI will prevent us from making mistakes. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US. Medical error happens today the healthcare comprises of multiple data coming all the time," he said.
AI tools, he said, will give a second opinion. In the same breath, he asserted that for AI to be efficient more data would be needed and hospitals must adopt maintaining digital databases.
Further, he also delved into how mundane jobs such as monitoring patients' pulse rates, and blood pressure, among others can be done by software and in the process can prevent mortality inside hospitals.
Dr Shetty stressed that with availability of high calibre digital talent India can lead innovation in health products.
"We need smart machines we need intelligent machines we need machines and digital completely connected together. India not only has low cost but very high calibre in digital talents," Dr Shetty replied.
"India has a very rare opportunity now, particularly given the US-China relationship. People and multinationals want manufacturing to be in another country and India has the scale. We have to think new ways of manufacturing," he added.
In conclusion, he said India has a great opportunity to become the global leader in EVs in the next decade. He suggested India must choose ten sectors and show the world the ways of manufacturing which the world needs.
"This is India's moment and we are going to grab it," he signed off from the podcast. 

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