Innovation and out-of-the-box ideas can significantly reduce the cost of healthcare, Union minister of State for human resource development, Shashi Tharoor, told graduating students of Sri Ramachandra University on Wednesday.

If time and distance can be significantly reduced and quality healthcare provided, then families can be spared ‘health catastrophe’ he told the students.

The out-of-pocket medical expenses for a family in India are around 86 per cent, but by providing low-cost options, the patient need not be burdened. If students set their mind to it, the country’s young workforce can turn every handicap into an opportunity without compromising on medical ethics, said Mr. Tharoor.

He dwelt on a novel method hit upon by an ophthalmologist in Mumbai. When the doctor realised slum dwellers did not want to undergo an eye exam as dilation of the eyes left them incapable of returning to work immediately, the specialist invented a test which did not require dilation.

The method has now been patented and transformed the way eye exams are done, he said.

He also spoke of the potential in the country’s young workforce. While the population in developed countries is hitting the middle age, in India, half the population is below the age of 25 years.

He said, half in jest, “There is a big gap between the average age of the population and the average age of the Cabinet.”

Vice-chancellor J.S.N. Murthy said the University, which began as Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, now had a total of 4,964 students.

At the 18th convocation on Wednesday, 595 students were awarded degrees and diplomas. The overall pass percentage in the examinations held in April-September 2013 is 89.25 per cent.

A total of 51 meritorious students were awarded medals for their performance.