A third of tests by private hospitals irrelevant: doctors at Tata Memorial meet

Doctors say that a lot of the technology used in private corporate hospitals is not required to offer optimal care. "In at least 15 per cent cases, we cancel treatment or simply scale it down from what has been recommended. Often, over-investigation and over-diagnosis due to irrelevant tests, software and technological apps (applications) in a high-paying private hospital can be completely avoided as they add to costs, and still may come up with the same diagnosis," said Dr Sunil Chandy, director, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore.

At the Tata Memorial Centre's (TMC) platinum jubilee conference today, this and a range of topics came up for discussion including Cuba's pioneering low-cost healthcare model, strides made by Zambia in bringing down infant mortality rates by 50 per cent, and the TMC's model that provided a range of payment options to patients depending on their capacity to pay.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference Chandy said if a doctor has conducted a thorough clinical examination and taken a good history of the patient, the tests and apps were often gimmicks.

"The alarming rise in healthcare bills may be traced to these expensive tests, prescribed by doctors, even if they do nothing to help patients," he said.

The conference, which is being held at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, will go on till tomorrow, and explore ways to reduce healthcare costs while ensuring the models were sustainable.

''My message to my colleagues in healthcare is to practise medicine with a heart,'' said Chandy. Chandy pointed out the plight of heart patients who were being over-charged for life saving stents.

All the stakeholders involved in the conference themed 'Healthcare: A Commodity or Basic Human Need' including pharmaceutical companies, discussed how universal healthcare could be achieved.

''There is a lack of accountability in the public sector. There is complacency and mediocrity and we are to be blamed for it,'' said Dr Sanjay Oak, CEO, Prince Aly Khan Hospital, Mumbai.