Consul General Nagesh Singh kicks off a health care panel at the Indian Consulate General in 2017. Photo: Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce

Better exchange between the U.S. and India can address deficiencies in each of their respective health care systems, creating immense commercial value and healthier citizens in the process, a group of medical and technology experts said during a recent forum at the Consulate General of India.

While it has some of the best technology and treatments in the world, the U.S. health care system is expensive and unwieldy, really operating as a “sick care” system that doesn’t value preventive medicine, some said. 

Little standardization of health care data among multiple payers means that providers can’t efficiently use it to improve outcomes.

“It’s really akin to you going to the ATM of a different bank and not being able to withdraw money. It’s really that serious,” said Saurabh Sinha,, CEO of eMids Technologies, which uses specially trained Indian IT workers to translate data into forms that make sense for researchers and doctors. 

Plus, the insurance system in the U.S. detaches the patient from the true cost of their care. 

“We have cultivated a generation of people, including myself, who are used to somebody else paying for health care,” Raja Ramachandran, director of product management at Change Healthcare, said at an Oct. 25 event organized by the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the consulate. 

India, on the other hand, has succeeded at making top-notch care available (at least in major cities) at rock-bottom prices. A relatively poor country where insurance is still largely a foreign concept, doctors and hospitals have had to focus on cutting waste and focus on the entrepreneurial concept of a “minimum viable product.” That is, they use innovation to find the cheapest way to an acceptable outcome on a given procedure or device. 

The marriage of these two national systems — or at least more interaction between them — would benefit both, and the more than 100,000 doctors of Indian origin in the U.S. are in a prime position to assist in making these connections.

Jayesh Sheth, or Dr. J, as he called himself, is one of those that works in both locales, and he’s noticed more of an appetite among the diaspora to work together for India’s benefit — and to tap business opportunities. 

I’m in Atlanta for 12 years now, and really I’m getting connected now,” said Dr. Sheth, CEO of Zilmed, which specializes in geriatric care. 

Experts agreed that India has created a consumer culture around health care, while the American system has created ways to standardize quality care, even if the prices for it can vary wildly. 

One advantage India has is scale, said Srivastan Pallavaram, a staff scientist at Vanderbilt University whose research helped develop a therapy that implants electrodes into the brain to treat Parkinson’s Disease. The procedure helps with tremors and other symptoms; the problem is that being off by just a few millimeters can create significant side effects. 

With a base of more than 4 million Parkinson’s patients but few hospitals able to conduct such “deep brain stimulation” surgeries, Mr. Pallavaram sees immense value in the possibility of using data from procedures to better model implantation locations for future surgeries. 

Data — collecting it first, and then being able to meaningfully use it — was seen as the next frontier in health care in the U.S., from information gathered from the sensors in wearables to data garnered from clinical trials conducted in India’s huge patient pool.       Even the seemingly mundane area of claims processing is an area ripe for disruption through data. 

India has an opportunity to avoid some of the negative aspects of the U.S. system as it develops.

For instance, telemedicine is already becoming integral to providing care across a massive nation with millions outside the reach of traditional health care infrastructure. The government’s Aadhar program, a system of ID numbers tied to biometric data, can also help with scale. Nearly 1 billion people have been catalogued in the system.

“In some ways that’s easier to build from the ground up in a system that’s emerging than it is to graft that onto a system that’s already well established here,” said Mr. Ramachandran. 

Nagesh Singh, consul general of India, provided opening remarks and hosted the event, after which a dinner was held at the consulate. 

The full list of speakers included:

  • Mr. Sameer Bhargav, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), SaaS Healthcare
  • Dr. Srivastan Pallavaram, Sr. Staff Scientist, Vanderbilt University
  • Dr. Barry Patel, Executive Vice President at Indegene
  • Mr. Maqbool Patel, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Vincari
  • Dr. Jayesh Sheth M.D., Chief Executive Officer,
  • Mr. Saru Seshadri, Chief Executive Officer, Ultramatics
  • Mr. Raja Ramachandran, Director Product Management, Change Healthcare
  • Mr. Saurabh Sinha, Chief Executive Officer, eMids Technologies

Anita Ninan, an attorney at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP and a board member of the GIACC, moderated the panel. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...