Hilton Humanitarian Prize
Aravind Eye Care System
Aravind Eye Care System is the largest and most productive eye care provider in the world.
Small start, big mission
In 1976, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy opened an 11-bed eye clinic in a rented house in Madurai, India. He had mortgaged his own home, borrowed money, and persuaded family members to leave their medical practices to join him. With this modest beginning, Venkataswamy began his mission to eliminate needless blindness.
Of the world’s 45 million blind people, 9 million live in India, where extreme sun and genetics lead many to develop cataracts in their 40s and 50s, dramatically shortening their productive years.
Cataracts are almost always curable, but the poor often cannot afford the surgery needed to restore vision.
To respond to this enormous challenge, Venkataswamy looked to the efficiency of McDonald’s franchise businesses and created a new healthcare model that combines high quality and high volume with low cost.
Aravind’s unique assembly-line approach increases the productivity of eye care delivery tenfold, and makes available a full range of eye care services, from general ophthalmology and cataract surgery to corneal transplants and diabetic retinopathy.
Aravind operates a growing network of eight hospitals in South India where more than 350,000 eye surgeries are performed each year. Since its inception, Aravind has handled more than 34 million outpatient visits and performed more than 4.3 million surgeries—60 percent of which are subsidized or provided free to the poor. Revenue from the paying clients makes the organization self-sustainable. Aravind’s hospitals are supported by a network of specialty clinics, research laboratories, and manufacturing facilities. Mobile eye camps reach even the remotest villages.
Leading medical schools from the United States and Europe now send students to Aravind for training, and its model has become a case study for business schools. Aravind is now expanding into the rest of the developing world, where 275 eye hospitals in 27 countries have received consultancy services in eye care management and nearly 6,300 eye care personnel from 95 countries have undergone clinical and management training at Aravind.