Aravind on TED - World Class Eyecare in India

As a follow up to my last blogpost, "Healthcare Modeled after McDonald's," TWI Blog reader Jason Yip provides this link to the fantastic website TED - Ideas Worth Spreading. The "talk" is by Thulasiraj Ravilla and the title of his talk is: How low-cost eye care can be world-class

Several clips in the talk feature the creator of the AES, or Aravined Eyecare System, by Dr. Venkataswamy. Yes, I just acronym-ed that! - Now, there were three things that struck me as significant about Dr. V's comments:

Dr. Venkataswamy: "I used to sit with the ordinary village man because I am from a village and suddenly you turn around and seem to contact his inner being, you seem to be one with him. Here is a soul which has got all the simplicity of confidence. Doctor, whatever you say, I accept it. An implicit faith in you and then you respond to it. Here is an old lady who has got so much faith in me, I must do my best for her."

Dr. V has been to genba and he knows what it will take to solve the problems of blindness, and he knows how to do it.

"See, McDonald's' concept is simple. They feel they can train people all over the world, irrespective of different religions, cultures, all those things, to produce a product in the same way and deliver it in the same manner in hundreds of places."

His dilemma was not necessarily the problem of blindness, he knew how to treat that. His problem was how to deliver high quality, consistent treatment to the people who needed it. He saw the problem of making burgers in the same light. Just about anyone can make a killer burger if they try hard enough, but how many can do it consistently, in quantities of billions?

"Supposing I'm able to produce eye care, techniques, methods, all in the same way, and make it available in every corner of the world. The problem of blindness is gone."

He adapted the concept of McDonald's efficency and production concepts to eyecare and saw that as the means to tackle the problem of blindness. Admittedly, he is doing many things differently than McDonalds would, like giving away services for free and still making a profit.

I think there is a lot to be learned from this organization, but I have a lot of questions. For one, are the costs kept down mostly through volunteerism? When Ravilla says they are comparing apples to apples with the U.K. system, the element of volunteerism is overlooked by the laughing audience. I don't know anything about Indian government or politics - how much of this organization's services are subsidized by the government
, if any at all? This would be another point of comparison that can not be lost as Mr. Ravilla suggests we desire seeing "Obama's ratings go up again." Answers to these questions may reveal that the Aravind Eyecare System is an orange to our apple.

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