‘Cut price has moved from fringes to the core medical practice’

Spurred by the backing of Maharashtra government, the AHI tells My Medical Mantra that will now take bigger steps to end the ‘menace’ of ‘monetary incentive clouding judgement’

Leading heart hospital’s hoardings on cut price causes stir in medical fraternity
Hoarding put out by Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai

Asian Heart Institute (AHI), one of India’s leading heart hospitals, stirred controversy on cut price in medical fraternity earlier this week. The hospital put up hoardings that say – ‘Honest Opinion. No Commission to Doctors’ – at strategic locations across the city, and refused to take them down despite several voices being raised against them.

The AHI told My Medical Mantra on Friday that they stand firm by their decision to not take down the hoardings, especially after they have been backed by the government of Maharashtra.

Leading heart hospital’s hoardings on cut price causes stir in medical fraternity
Dr Ramakanta Panda, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Asian Heart Institute

My Medical Mantra (MMM): What made you take this decision to put up these banners on cut practice?

Asian Heart Institute (AHI): A man came to our hospital in December 2016, and stated that he intended to train for a marathon. Our team was very happy to see him. Five years ago, the same person had come to us, panting and scared beyond wits. He was told, back then, that if not operated immediately, he would die. When we investigated him, he didn’t even need an angiogram.

This is just one of the examples of patients, who can easily be handled by medical management, but has been scared into believing that they need surgery. The man is leading a normal life five years after that incident, without surgery.

We encounter such people every single day, and this made us realise that something was amiss. They were driven to be fearful and made to do procedures they didn’t need. In a span of a few decades, the menace of cut price has moved from the fringes of medical practice to becoming its core. Many young doctors are being forced to resort to this even if they don’t want to.

As this monetary incentive clouds judgement, patients are at the receiving end of a long list of unnecessary investigations and procedures being suggested – which may have no relevance to their condition. Moreover, patients are passed to the doctor who pays the most, not the doctor who treats the best. This was the idea behind the hoardings.

MMM: How can government curb cut practice? Your suggestions

AHI: We are very grateful to the government of Maharashtra for responding to our hoardings and subsequently appealing for support.

Several countries have exemplary systems of adherence to policy and strict punishments for referral cuts. We can be a catalyst in assisting the government to formulate and implement stringent guidelines to curb the practice of cut price.

MMM: Have you ever raised the cut practice issue with association of doctors or tried solving it with them?

AHI: Yes, we have raised the issue several times; and our Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Dr Ramakanta Panda, has also written several opinion pieces on this subject.

MMM: Has the hospital ever faced this issue?

AHI: As a hospital, of course we have faced this issue, but have stayed away from it.

MMM: Sections of the medical fraternity has called your step as an opportunistic tactic. What do you have to say about this?

AHI: The stand we have taken is not easy, but we are pleasantly surprised to be flooded with congratulatory letters from several doctors. We are now taking this forward at the Central and state levels. We are going to now begin work on forming an informal group of the most respected doctors in the country, when it comes to professional ethics. We want to be the catalyst in having guidelines being formed on this in accordance with the law of the land.