[Guest Post]: Making LifeSpring come alive

The following is a guest post by Jason Ye, a MD/MBA student at Columbia University and an InSITE fellow alongside yours truly. Jason visited India during his spring break on a project organized by Columbia’s International Development Club and worked on pro bono consulting project with LifeSpring Hospitals. Go here for a post on this venture to provide affordable medical care to women and children. While Jason’s work must remain confidential, he was able to reflect on his experience during his work with this great organization.

I had always wanted to visit India, but never thought that I would go for at least another 15 years. When I fortuitously stumbled upon the opportunity to work with LifeSpring, a maternity hospital in Hyderabad, I jumped on the opportunity. It would seem that the entire trip accidentally fell into place. I was able to speak to the client for the first time only a week before I left, just barely got an appointment to get travel vaccinations, got my tourist visa the day before I traveled and bought my plane ticket on the morning my plane left. When I finally arrived in Hyderabad, I still had no idea what to expect. But my experience in India far exceeded any expectation that I could have had.

The first thing that I noticed was the famous Indian hospitality, which was so sincere and gracious that it sometimes made you feel uncomfortable. But besides kind, my hosts at LifeSpring Hospital, a niche provider of low cost, high quality obstetric care, were some of the most passionate and resourceful individuals I have met. Driven by their mission to bring quality health care to patients regardless of their income levels, they are testing the lower limits of low cost health care. A normal delivery costs only $38 USD and a caesarian section costs only $150 USD, a stark contrast to about $6,000 USD and $13,000 USD respectively at a US hospital. Despite the discrepancy in prices, the Indian doctors were as good as any American one; I verified this personally after scrubbing into a caesarian section. Although the facilities cannot compare to a US hospital or the elite private Indian hospitals, it was still much better and safer than the government hospitals.

After days of observations, research and interviews, I arrived at a set of recommendations which I hope will help LifeSpring continue its noble mission. But to some extent, I was the one who benefited most from this pro bono consulting project. LifeSpring’s vision of helping those who are most in need has reaffirmed the reason why I wanted to be a doctor. Its clever business model has taught me that success in entrepreneurship is not determined by capital, but by passion.

Of this I am certain: I will return to India and I will return to LifeSpring.

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Acumen and Hindustan Latex to provide country with micro-hospitals

In a joint venture, Acumen Fund and Hindustan Latex will begin the development of hospitals with 25-30 bed capacities throughout India to help address the dearth of low income maternal and child healthcare services.

To be labeled LifeSpring Hospitals, the venture will build upon the success of the phase I hospitals established since 2005 that have yet to experience a single mortality. According to VC Circle, he new funding will help the organization scale up to 140 similar centers by 2012.

Acumen’s initial $2 million equity investment in the new company, a 50/50 equity partnership between Acumen and HLL, will support LifeSpring’s plan to open five hospitals in 2008 and thirty across India by the end of 2010. LifeSpring charges between 30-50 per cent of the prevailing market rates. With 80 per cent of all health care expenditures in India out-of-pocket, LifeSpring aims to significantly lessen the burden of rising health costs to low-income communities.

While numerically the effects of such a venture may not seem substantial in relation to the need, if successful it will demonstrate a scalable and viable funding model for future services.