Following is the top ten surgeon in India, in the five most common surgical specialities: heart, orthopaedic, neurosurgery, ophthalmic surgery and reconstructive surgery from HindustanTimes article.

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NEUROSURGERY
Dr Vipul Gupta, 41, Head, Neuro-intervention, Medanta – The Medicity

Vipul Gupta watched his 33-year-old brother die of a malignant tumour in the brain eight years ago. “We knew it was hopeless but we went all the way. He was operated on thrice, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in India and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. That’s when I realised that even when the chips are down, the family does not give up, so you have to give it your best,” says the Delhi-based Gupta. He’s a little embarrassed about the emotional outpouring. “Surgeons can’t be emotional, it won’t help the patient on the table. You have to be calm and think clearly,” he says. At 41, Gupta heads neuro-intervention at Medanta – the Medicity, where he moved after doing his MBBS from Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medial College in 1996 and training in neuro-radiology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for three years. “I’m out-doorsy and enjoy swimming, rafting and rock-climbing. I broke my knees twice in school. The operation and forced bed-rest for six months slowed me down, forcing me to study which helped me crack the MBBS easily,” he laughs.

Dr Deepak Agrawal, 40, Associate professor, Neurosurgery, AIIMS
He’s the guy at the frontier, treating accident victims at the AIIMS Trauma Centre, best known for treating some of the bloodiest and most bizarre accident cases in the country. “Most accident victims we get are people with severe head or spinal injuries that are often fatal. It does get you down, but nothing can beat the high of seeing a patient everyone including your colleagues had given up on, walk into your clinic for a follow-up. That’s when you know that miracles do happen,” says Dr Agrawal. Agrawal did his MBBS at the University College of Medical Science in 1994 – where he met his onco-surgeon wife Swati – and his training in neurosurgery at AIIMS. “My professional high was being awarded the ‘Young Neurosurgeon of the Year’ Award by the American Congress of Neurosurgeons in 2008. The personal one was my daughter Ayushi, who is five,” he says. His father Dr Ved Prakash was also a neurosurgeon at AIIMS, so Agrawal’s becoming a surgeon was almost pre-determined. “I like to catch up on my emails before breakfast, so I begin work at 5.30 am. I leave home at 7.30, doing rounds of the ward for three hours, which is followed by surgeries that usually go on till 7. Then come the evening rounds, which finish at 9 pm. Add to this administrative work, teaching and writing and correcting research papers, and my day never seems to end,” says Agrawal.

OPHTHALMIC SURGERY
Sri Ganesh, 44, Eye surgeon and chairman, Nethradhama Hospital, Bangalore

Bangalore residents are used to seeing Dr Sri Ganesh zooming down the streets to his farm on his Suzuki Intruder, which he exchanges for his Audi Q7 or BMW 5-Series when he visits the hospitals he set up. “Both my grandmas were blinded with cataract, one because of a botched up surgery. I think seeing them faltering around the house made me decide I wanted to do all I could to help people see,” says the 44-year-old. Eye surgery techniques have become much safer now. “Back then, there were no intraocular lenses (artificial lenses put inside the eye in place of the natural ones) and the failure rate of a simple cataract surgery was 30 per cent, largely due to infection. Now, less than 0.1 per cent cataract and vision-correction surgeries have complications,” he says. Sri Ganesh met his wife Sumanshree at a paratrooping camp in Agra. He was 17, she was 16. “Someone stole my things and she was very sweet,” he says. They married six years later, in 1990, after Sri Ganesh did his MBBS. The couple have three children, Supriya, Sushant and Skanda. Apart from running six hospitals – four in Bangalore, one in Mysore and one in Mangalore – Sri Ganesh runs a 90-bedded charitable hospital in Padmanabhanagar that does 8,000 free cataract surgeries a year.

Dr Mahipal S Sachdev, 52, Centre for Sight Group of Hospitals

Mahipal S Sachdev, eye surgeon to the rich and powerful, never invests in anything but health. “My last investment was Harshad Mehta and I burnt my fingers there,” says Dr Sachdev. His investments in healthcare – time, energy and money – have shown better results. Sachdev was told he was crazy when he quit as associate professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to join the newly-opened Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in Delhi in 1996. He was 37. The skeptics got it very, very wrong. Within 15 years of that, he’s running 17 eye hospitals that have become one-stop shops for eye disorders in north India. A year-long fellowship to Georgetown University in Washington DC in ’89-’90 opened his eyes, literally, to the technological imaging and surgical revolution happening in the field of ophthalmology. “I realised less invasive radical surgeries were the way forward, but I needed equipment and trained staff for that. I could not get that in a government set-up. So I set up my own centre, which started in a 8×10 foot room in Safdarjang Enclave in 1996, but we’ve grown a little since then,” he says with obvious pride. Sachdev is arguably the best person to go to for cataract and lasik surgery in India. “This is all I want to do, medicine is in my genes. My mother and brother are doctors, so is my wife Alka and daughters Ritika, 29, and Gitansha, 25,” says Sachdev. Sachdev also has an unexplored, fun side to him. “I did my MBBS from AIIMS, where I was the secretary of the students’ union. We were the ones who threw open Pulse, the students’ festival at AIIMS, to fashion, jam sessions and music. Before that, it was a sporting event. We made it socio-cultural,” he says.

COSMETIC SURGERY
Sunil Choudhary, 42, Aesthetic and Reconstructive surgeon, Max Speciality Hospital, Delhi
Quite like modern day Dr Frankensteins, attaching a hand and replacing chopped fingers with toes is all in a day’s work for reconstructive surgeons. Some, like Sunil Choudhary, who head the aesthetics and reconstruction at Max Speciality Hospital, start a conversation with, “Today, I attached two toes and one finger in the right hand of a 16-year-old who’d lost his fingers in a farming accident. He’ll be able to write now”. This is followed by an MMS of a surgery to fix a congenital defect in which a child’s skull stops expanding naturally, squeezing the brain and making it bulge out of the forehead. Unlike popular perception, silicone implants and other cosmetic procedures make up less than a third of a cosmetic surgeon’s case load. “A lot of what we do is related to reconstruction after cancer surgeries and accident cases, including burns and acid attacks,” he explains. Choudhary grew up in Delhi, went to school in DPS RK Puram and did his MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College, after which he joined the training programme of the UK’s National Health Service.

Dr Shahin Nooreyezdan, 49, Plastic & reconstructive surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo

He insists on giving you a business card. “I’m the only one in the world with this name, so people often get it wrong,” says Dr Shahin Nooreyezdan. There is, however, a little boy called Shahin Sharma, who was called Golu before his grateful parents renamed him after the surgeon who reattached his finger. “It was deeply touching, but also strange. I guess now there’s another person in the world with a very unusual name,” he says. Nooreyezdan grew up in Mumbai, where he lived with his parents in a flat above Russi J Manekshaw, the granddaddy of plastic surgery in India. “Each day, I’d walk past his door on my way home from school and pass this display box with before- and after-surgery pictures, which kept changing every week. I was hooked and decided this was what I wanted to do,” says the Delhi-based Nooreyezdan. He moved to London in 1996, where he worked at St Andrew’s Hospital for three years and met his wife Neda, a British citizen. “When we decided to move back and I went to the Indian High Commission for a visa for my wife, the clerk there said, why are you going? You have a great future here!” he laughs. Most of his work in India is reconstruction. “Unlike other surgeons who can walk in to do the critical part of the surgery, I have to be there from the first incision to the final stitch because what I do is for everyone to see,” says Nooreyezdan, who gets women as young as 19 who need reconstruction after breast cancer surgery. The deft fingers that reconstruct tissues and reattach blood vessels 1.2-1.5 mm in diameter also help him pursue his hobby: collecting and repairing antique clocks. Nooreyezdan has a collection of over 125 pendulum clocks from all over the world, including grandfather clocks from the UK, clocks from ships and railway stations. “It started when I was 17, when I noticed an old, broken, clock at an Irani dhaba. I bought it for R170, got it home and fixed it. I still do it, though I have to pay a guy to wind them up in rotation once a week,” he says. He clearly knows how to wind down.

ORTHOPEDIC SURGERY

Dr Vijay C Bose, 44, Head of orthopaedic surgery, Apollo Chennai
He was part of British orthopaedic surgeon Derek McMinn’s crack team that developed the ‘Birmingham Hip’ – a hip implant that allows people to play contact sports and twist without shouting after a hip transplant – in the late ’90s. Yet what gives Dr Vijay Bose the greatest joy is recognition from his peers. “Three weeks ago, a renowned joint replacement surgeon from the US got his son to our centre for surgery. He’s one of the best in the world and could have done it himself, he could have got it done by the best in his own country, but he still came to India. That’s the quality India offers to the world now,” says Bose. Bose, who joined Apollo Hospital in Chennai in 2000 after six years in Birmingham and Liverpool in the UK, now routinely gets so many patients from overseas that he’s became the face of medical tourism in India for 60 Minutes on CBS News. “I did the first implant in Apollo in 2000 and since then, I have demonstrated the technique across 80 hospitals in India,” says Bose, who did his MBBS from Madras Medical College in 1990. Apart from hip replacement, he does knee and shoulder joint reconstructions.

Dr Suraj Guruv, 36, Orthopaedic surgeon, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai
Dr Suraj Guruv’s last holiday was spent shooting wildlife at Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh, but he did not break any laws. Guruv is an amateur photographer and rarely leaves home without his Nikon Digital SLR. “I’m crazy about wildlife photography,” he says. When he’s not shooting, Guruv is fixing damaged hips and knees using minimally invasive bone-conserving surgeries in India that make it possible for people to run, drive and work just as they did before, after hip or knee replacements. Guruv is a Mumbai boy, who grew up in Prabhadevi, went to a neighbourhood school, did his MBBS at Mumbai’s Topiwala National Medical College and worked in Bombay Hospital before going to train in Singapore General Hospital. “I belong to a family of chartered accountants, my dad is one, so is my older brother. So when dad said try something else, I thought, why not?” says Guruv, who aced his entrance exam. “Even though I don’t invest in the markets, I still follow financial news very closely, perhaps because that’s what I’ve grown up hearing,” he says. He returned to India because he wanted to be part of the boom in medical care that India is witnessing. “We now have medical facilities at par with any other in the world, with better care,” he says.

HEART SURGERY
Dr Raja Joshi, 40  Paediatric cardiac surgeon, Apollo
He’s called the ‘bandana guy’ because he wears a bandana instead of a surgical cap while operating. Apart from his training as a paediatric heart surgeon during a five-year stint at Cleveland Clinic in the US, what defines Raja Joshi is his bandana collection. “You have to strike a chord with the kids you’re treating, and a bandana with Dalmatians on it sure helps to break the ice,” says the Delhi-based Joshi who, at 36, became one of the youngest surgeons in the country to set up a paediatric cardiac surgery unit in a major hospital. “My dad was in the air force, I grew up wanting to be a fighter pilot. It was after my class 10 boards that my dad told me there were other ways to earn a living,” he recalls. The idea of being a heart surgeon for children came a year later, after a Doordarshan show on a hole-in-the-heart being fixed. “It was so dramatic, the lights and the surgeons in scrubs, this child being immersed in ice to bring the body temperature down. Suddenly, that was the only thing I wanted to do,” says Joshi. He’s had no regrets. “It’s one of the few surgeries where the patients outlive the surgeons. You won’t believe the number of birthday invites I get. Anyone can do adult heart surgery, paediatric is what separates the boys from the men,” said Joshi. His wife Reena Joshi, 36, is a paediatric anaesthetist who’s helped him introduce innovations such as letting the mother stay with the child in the operation room till he sleeps. “Taking away a baby from the mother makes anxiety levels shoot up. Keeping them together till the baby is anaesthetised improves surgery outcomes,” says Joshi.

Pranav Kandachar, 37, Paediatric heart surgeon, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai
Heart surgery is one of the cleanest surgeries there is, it’s like mathematics. The result is directly related to what you do, there are few surprises,” says Pranav Kandachar, the newest heart surgeon to join Asian Heart Institute’s team of surgeons. “Of course, there are some conditions in which you cannot play god, but in most cases, children can lead active, normal lives after surgery,” he says. After doing his MBBS from Bangalore Medical College in 1997, Kandachar worked at Sion in Mumbai, Apollo Chennai and Colombo, did a year long stint in New Zealand, returned to Bangalore to work at Shirdi Sai Baba Charitable Hospital, and joined the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai, in January this year. “When you’re training, one institute can’t offer you everything. I’ve trained with the best,” he says. Kandachar describes himself as a nature kind of guy, being big time into hydroponics, a scientific method of growing plants in water – without soil – using mineral nutrient solutions. “I have a virtual vegetable garden in my little balcony, where I grow spinach, beans, cauliflower, coriander and mint. I’m planning to grow strawberries next,” he says. He’s also into ornithology and is part of a nature club that goes birdwatching to sanctuaries at least once a month.

Source: HindustanTimes, April 10

Why Health Care Costs Keep Rising – Analysis and Solutions

It’s no secret that the health care in the United States is expensive. But have you wondered why this is the case? Here’s an excellent analysis of the situation that we came across with proposed solutions of what can be done to cut down prices for the health care consumer – something which we feel you will find useful too. So, read on…

Summary

When economist Charles Wheelan published an analysis titled “The Top 10 Reasons for Soaring Health-Care Costs,” it was refreshing to read about the problem from an economics point of view. What Wheelan did not cover, however, was what we can do to address the issues that continue to cause health care costs to spiral out of control. What follows is a point-by-point look at Wheelan’s top 10 reasons followed by a discussion of what we are doing—or could do—to control costs better.

Analysis

Reason 1.
Nobody Shops for Value

Wheelan argues that when it comes to health care, everyone wants and expects the best. “There’s no medical equivalent of Wal-Mart,” he writes. “Everyone wants Neiman Marcus.”
Solution: Some health plans are addressing this issue by discouraging patients from using expensive facilities for common problems, such as a sore throat, through co-pay incentives and member education. Not only are patients encouraged to find a less expensive facility, they also are encouraged to ask the doctor to write generic prescriptions.
The question is, how do patients know which facilities offer reasonable prices and quality medical care? It will take greater health care cost and quality transparency—and better consumer education—to get health care shoppers to the same level of sophistication they use in buying other high-end goods (e.g., cars), but progress is being made. A number of health plans now offer cost information on various treatment options, and web sites such as HealthGrades offer quality information on doctors, making it possible for people to shop for health care online.

Reason 2.
Medical Innovations Are Usually More Expensive

The basis of medical progress is learning to do new things, no matter the cost. In the case of pharmaceuticals, the system has been designed so new drugs are expensive. Breakthrough medications receive patent protection, and the better the drug, the more its producer can charge. High prices yield high profits, which creates an incentive to develop the next generation of drugs.
Solution:Although we, as a society, have agreed to pay more for innovative medications and medical devices, especially those that introduce new cures, we have not agreed on who is going to pay for them. Part of the solution lies in the expansion of employer-sponsored wellness and health promotion programs that focus on keeping healthy people healthy and helping those who are sick to better manage their illnesses by steering them toward proven treatments. Value-based benefit plan design tries to achieve this by removing barriers that may be barring patient access to the most effective medications.
Furthermore, not all innovations (which include diagnostic tests, imaging tests, medications and medical devices) should be treated equally. While some add value, some do not. One solution is to use a creative plan design that identifies the most effective innovations and reimburses them with a premium.

Reason 3.
Some Health Care Is a ‘Luxury Good’

Used as a technical economic term, a “luxury good” is something wealthy people demand in disproportionately greater amounts than less wealthy people do. Richer societies and richer people within a society have higher expectations for health care. They expect medical fixes—such as hip replacements, stomach stapling and Lasik eye surgery—for problems that people with lower expectations will just tolerate.
Solution: While it’s easy to poke fun at medical tourism, it may well emerge as one of the solutions to this problem. Medical tourism generally involves traveling to another country for non-emergency care, including knee replacements, shoulder surgery and even heart bypasses. A knee or hip replacement that may have a retail price of $65,000 to $80,000 in the United States costs between $8,000 and $10,000 in India. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions predicts that the number of Americans using medical tourism could jump tenfold over the next decade, to nearly 16 million a year.

Reason 4.
We Don’t Pay for What We Consume

Health care is unique in that neither the service provider nor the patient gets the bill, especially when insurance out-of-pocket maximum provisions are reached. The patient who is directly involved in the transaction has little incentive to control costs when out-of-pocket costs are removed. When insurance companies try to do so, it can lead to arbitrary limits on care, time-consuming hurdles for more expensive procedures and additional bureaucracy for doctors. Even then, it’s easy to game the system.
Solution:One possible solution is moving away from fee-for-service provider reimbursement and returning to a staff-model health maintenance organization (HMO), where providers employed by the health plans are charged with offering patients the most cost-efficient care without compromising quality. Two studies have found that this model works quite well. A 2002 paper in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), “Getting More for Their Dollar: A Comparison of the NHS with California’s Kaiser Permanente,” compared HMO provider Kaiser and Britain’s National Health System (NHS), concluding that Kaiser achieved better outcomes than the NHS for similar inputs. And a 2003 study in the BMJ, “Hospital Bed Utilization in the English NHS, Kaiser Permanente, and the US Medicare Program: Analysis of Routine Data,” which reported on hospital stay lengths, produced similar conclusions.
Over the past few years, several large employers have brought care delivery on-site in the form of clinics, using the same premise as the staff-model HMO. Revisiting global provider payments per admission or bundled payments for treating all the medical needs of specific patients with chronic disease might return to favor.

Reason 5.
Baumol’s ‘Disease’

Not a disease, but an important insight by economist William Baumol on what afflicts certain sectors of the economy, such as health care and higher education. He found that as societies become richer, labor-intensive endeavors, such as health care, become increasingly expensive relative to goods and services that can be produced using less labor. As long as the doctor-patient relationship remains relatively unchanged, health care costs will rise faster than prices in general.
Solution: Because there are no economies of scale, a surgeon cannot perform more than X number of surgeries and a primary care physician (PCP) cannot see more than X number of patients in a day (although we have seen the latter rise dramatically in the past two decades). For them to keep up with others, who are earning more money in less time because of technological advances, they have to increase their unit cost.
Pay-for-performance-type programs can help identify providers who are practicing quality medicine in the most judicious and cost-effective way. Once such high-quality and cost-efficient providers are identified, patients need to be directed to them. Specialized cancer and transplant centers are a good example of where upfront costs are relatively high but long-term outcomes are better and repeat illnesses are fewer.

Reasons 6 & 7.
Living Longer and Living an Unhealthy Lifestyle

Not only are people living longer (which in itself increases health care costs), but too many people are living unhealthy lives. This includes smoking, eating fast food and driving instead of walking, to name but a few.
Solution: While we can’t change the fact that people are living longer (nor would we want to), we can help them live healthier lives. The latest shift in health care is to focus on keeping the healthy healthy and to stop diseases from progressing from bad to worse. This can be achieved through wellness and health promotions, health education and coaching, communicating information on healthy lifestyle choices, and making sure those who need care have access to the right care at the right time to maximize clinical and economic value. People who are at risk or at high risk can be identified via health risk appraisals and sophisticated technology and tools, such as predictive modeling, which uses claims data to identify risk.

Reason 8.
The Uninsured

The uninsured end up costing the system a great deal of money. In a family that is uninsured, a child with a high fever and a bad cough will probably be treated in a hospital emergency room—a very expensive use of a trauma center and its highly trained staff. Or the child might not be treated at all until five years later when he or she develops asthma or another chronic condition that could have been managed far less expensively with better primary care.
Solution: This is a problem that needs government intervention. Although President Barack Obama has pledged to intervene, his health care program has yet to be addressed—specifically, how his programs will cover all Americans in the most cost-effective delivery setting.
One solution that plan sponsors can undertake in the meantime involves helping their pre-age-65 retirees with health insurance. They can take advantage of the innovative solutions that some health plans now offer—allowing employees to prefund premiums that contribute toward buying coverage after retirement but before they are eligible for Medicare.

Reason 9.
The High Cost of End-of-Life Care

Even people who are treated successfully for heart disease or cancer eventually die. Any medical success begets additional medical expense, which is especially true for end-of-life care. The last six months of life are typically the most expensive period of a person’s life.
The escalating cost of treating illness at the end of life raises moral and politically charged issues that are difficult to address: What is the actual value of using expensive treatments on people whose life expectancy is drastically limited, even with the treatment? While other countries have begun to base coverage decisions, in part, on how many years of quality life a treatment is expected to produce—for example, the clinical guidelines created by the U.K.’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence—this issue still seems to be taboo in the United States. Most of these costs are incurred by Medicare and Medicaid.
Solution: We need to be better at considering quality of life in decisions about treatments and services for chronically ill elderly patients. It has been suggested that Medicare and Medicaid could form a governing body of clinicians that can make and authorize these difficult decisions.
In addition, society needs to make better use of hospice care. Employers and plan sponsors should educate their beneficiaries about hospices and the situations in which they are the best option.

Reason 10.
Malpractice Suits

Malpractice is more of a legal problem than an economic one because doctors tend to practice “defensive medicine” out of fear of being sued. Seeking to avoid lawsuits, they have an incentive to over-treat all kinds of maladies. Research shows that physicians in countries such as the United States—where the risk of malpractice suits is high—tend to order more investigative tests than those in countries with less risk, such as the U.K. (See, for example, the New York Times article “Why Does U.S. Health Care Cost So Much?”)
Solution: Washington Post columnist George F. Will has proposed an appropriate solution to this complex issue. We have juries of people who have no knowledge of the complexities of medicine handling decisions on whether a patient’s death resulted from negligence on the part of the physician or whether the doctor did everything in his or her power to save the patient. Instead, the state judicial system could create a panel of highly qualified judges with access to independent clinicians who are familiar with the highly complicated nature of such cases and remove some of the emotional overreactions by juries that result in disproportional monetary awards that should be reserved for cases of gross negligence. This will help physicians use sound clinical judgment instead of practicing defensive medicine.

One More Reason: Lack of Access to Complete Information
Doctors collect and create a lot of information—everything from notes to diagnosis codes. The insurance companies add another level of data. While much of this information could be used to improve treatment and reduce costs, no one is in a position to see it all. A doctor who prescribes a treatment doesn’t know what it costs or whether the patient’s insurance covers it. An insurance company that questions a doctor about a treatment might never receive all of the information it needs. When a patient switches providers, it can result in duplicate tests and services and potentially dangerous treatments. All this creates tremendous administrative waste and resource consumption for providers and payers.
Solution: Electronic medical records (EMR) and health information exchange (HIE) are two steps in the right direction toward health care interoperability (the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate; to exchange data accurately, effectively and consistently; and to use the information that has been exchanged). Developing standards for EMR interoperability is at the forefront of the president’s health care agenda. Many physicians have computerized practice management systems that can be used in conjunction with HIE, allowing them to share patient information (e.g.,lab results, public health reporting), which is necessary for timely, patient-centered and portable care.
Similar movement is happening on the payer side, which is attempting to collect more information from providers as well as consumers. They are making decision-support tools available to their beneficiaries, to help them navigate the system. Some payers are also adopting personal health records, which members can take with them if they change insurance providers.
Another step in the right direction is the patient-centric medical home model, in which a patient’s physician knows everything there is to know about that person’s health care. This requires comprehensive patient management software that allows the physician to coordinate all the care the patient needs.

Conclusion
The good news is, there are potential solutions to most of the reasons health care is so expensive. The real challenge is in getting the different stakeholders to work together to solve this monumental problem.

* Analysis by: GLG Expert Contributor
* Analysis of: Bending the Curve: Effective Steps to Address Long-Term Health Care Spending Growth
* Published at: http://www.brookings.edu

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