Great Lessons From Aravind Eye Care

I recently learned about Aravind Eye Care, which won the 2008 Gates Award for Global Health. Based in Tamil Nadu, India, Aravind has become the largest and most productive eye clinic in the world. It handles 2.4 million outpatients and conducts eye surgery on more than 285,000 people at its five hospitals in southern India.  What makes the story so compelling is that Aravind provides care nearly free of charge for 65% of its patients.

According to the late founder of Aravind, Dr. G. Venkatswamy (affectionately referred to as Dr. V):

Being of service to God and humanity means going well beyond the sophistication of the best technology, to the humble demonstration of courtesy and compassion to each patient

Here’s some of what we can learn from Aravind:

  • Aggressively streamline repeating processes. Aravind identified high volume, repeatable processes like cataract surgeries and developed highly efficient and consistent approaches. Aravind surgeons carry out an average of 2,000 procedures a year, way ahead of the average 125 procedures achieved in the US.
  • Limit the need for high-cost personnel. Aravind recruits young paramedical staff from local villages and trains them to carry out a wide range of duties from eye refraction testing to counselling and preparing patients for surgery. This leaves the surgeons free to operate, predominantly removing cataracts and inserting intraocular lenses.
  • Get creative about differentiated service. Paying patients receive extra comforts such as air conditioning and greater privacy, but Aravind staff are rotated between free and paying hospitals so as not to compromise treatment quality.
  • Blend centralized and distributed resources. Aravind uses a network in rural vision centers. The technology allows doctors in central hospitals to consult with clinicians at the vision centers in real time via webcam, making quality eye care accessible to the rural poor who don’t have the time or money to travel to big cities for examinations.
  • Don’t trade-off humanity for profits. According to David Green, a US consultant who setup a non-profit arm of Aravind for manufacturing ophthalmic products at affordable prices:  “You can have a form of humanised capitalism and you can do it in a way where you don’t cannibalise your margins.”

The bottom line: We can all learn a lot from Dr. V.

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 Responses to Great Lessons From Aravind Eye Care

  1. Wonderful post. I think President Obama can learn about the cheap efficient, effective and quality health care from the India.

    India an emerging economy, here the social engineering has not yet taken place properly , still some innovate practice and like minded people has come forward like Dr V , who wants to eradicate the blindness from India. The process has been an excellent process and they have got a very good result without compromising the quality.
    SERVQUEL is being maintained specially in health care which is an important factor.

    I was reading a news paper that India is planning for major Health care tourism, where many patients can come from round the world and can come to India for medical treatment.

    In Hinduism, we believe in KARMA (Work that you do in your lifetime), Good Karma (Good Work That you Do). Dr V has made a good work and still doing, thanks to Bill & Melinda Gates foundation they have come forward to help them and recently they have opened an eye clinic in Calcutta.
    These sort of services can be easily benched marked and can be replicated round the world for a better human society as a whole.

    With Warm Regards.

    • Bruce Temkin says:

      Dabashish: Thanks for your feedback. I agree. The US healthcare system is not setup to deliver healthcare to the masses. I think we should learn from Dr V and establish some high-volume, high-automation, low-cost procedures in the US. The heathcare system definitely needs this type of reform; and hopefully India will continue to showcase successes that can teach other countries throughout the world.

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