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India records 300% increase in telehealthcare

The healthcare landscape is transforming, driven by the need for more equitable and efficient systems. The reforms are a response to a growing demand for a system that serves the needs of every individual, regardless of their economic status. Covid-19 has entirely changed the way India views healthcare. India has come a long way from buying medicines from the countertop to visiting a doctor for healthcare concerns. 94% of Indians are worried about their family’s health.

While being health cautious is suitable for Indians, it comes with a cost, and good healthcare is not so accessible in rural India; hence, we are seeing an increase of 300% in telehealthcare as it’s cheaper and more accessible. Another reason adding to it is that the penetration of internet connectivity is amazing in every nook and cranny of the country. Plus, the Indian government is also trying to make healthcare easily accessible to everyone.

India’s healthcare system is undergoing significant reforms to improve access, affordability, and quality of care. These reforms are crucial for a country home to over 1.3 billion people, with healthcare challenges as diverse as its population.

Expanding Coverage: Bridging the Healthcare Divide

  • Ayushman Bharat Yojana: Launched in 2018, this flagship scheme aims to cover over 500 million individuals, providing a cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. It also understands the need for digital integration; hence, all the features of Ayushman Bharat are accessible digitally, making the process as seamless as possible.
  • National Health Mission (NHM): The NHM has been instrumental in providing essential healthcare services to the underserved and in remote areas, focusing on reducing out-of-pocket expenses for the poor.
  • Price Regulation: The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) regulates the prices of pharmaceutical drugs and devices, ensuring that essential medicines and equipment are affordable for the masses.

Quality Improvement: Elevating Healthcare Standards

  • National Quality Assurance Standards (NQAS): Introduced to ensure quality care in public health facilities, NQAS sets benchmarks for various healthcare services.
  • LaQshya Program: This program targets labor rooms and maternity operation theatres and aims to improve the quality of maternal and newborn care.

Rise of Telehealthcare
Telehealthcare is transforming the healthcare industry by leveraging technology to deliver medical services remotely. It’s a broad term encompassing various healthcare services provided through telecommunications and digital communication technologies.

Key Components of Telehealthcare

  • Telemedicine: Involves remote clinical services, such as consultations, diagnoses, and monitoring.
  • mHealth: Mobile health uses apps and wearable devices to track health metrics and provide health-related information.
  • Telehealth: A broader category that includes non-clinical services like education and training for healthcare professionals.

Advantages of Telehealthcare

  • Accessibility: Makes healthcare services available to people in remote or underserved areas.
  • Convenience: The ability to receive care without traveling saves time and resources.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Reduces the need for physical infrastructure and can lower healthcare costs.

Challenges and Considerations

  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring privacy and security of patient data in accordance with regulations like HIPAA.
  • Technology Adoption: Overcoming barriers to technology adoption among both providers and patients.
  • Quality of Care: Maintaining the quality of care and ensuring that telehealth care complements traditional healthcare services.

The demand for telehealth care services in India has significantly increased, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some key points highlighting the demand:

  • Rapid Market Growth: India’s telehealth market was valued at USD 13.15 billion in FY2021 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.31%.
  • Consumer Adoption: A study found that 64% of consumers were keen to adopt teleconsultation even after the pandemic, indicating a strong preference for remote healthcare services.
  • Projected Expansion: The global telemedicine market, which includes India, is projected to grow from USD 79.79 billion in 2020 to USD 396.76 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 25.8%.

The Other Side of the Coin
While the government is trying its best to make healthcare better and affordable, most schemes revolve around catering to people who can not afford healthcare. For example, the Ayushman Bharat Yojana is for people whose family income is below ₹5 lakh.

This means the average middle-class can’t avail of these benefits as an average Indian household earns ₹9.65 lakh annually. This might seem like discrimination, but it is not, as the middle class can easily afford health insurance. Yet, as of FY2023, only 52 million people have individual health insurance, just 4% of the population.

  • Lack of OPD Cover: Some health insurance plans offer Outpatient Department (OPD) cover, which includes doctor’s consultation fees, diagnostic tests, and pharmacy expenses. However, not all health insurance plans may have OPD coverage as part of their standard offerings. This makes having health insurance redundant for most people as, most of the time, OPD trips are all that is needed. By the end of the year, health insurance was rendered useless despite having doctor visits. Although insurance is supposed to be a safety net due to low income for most Indians, it might seem like a loss of money that could have been used for children’s education.
  • Lack of Mental Health Cover: While most health insurance covers hospitalization in such cases, hardly any of them cover therapy, and it is most likely that if the plan covers therapy, your therapist might not be listed on health insurance as therapy is part of a highly unorganized market. Anyone who has been through any mental health treatment knows that therapy is something that takes up the most money for the treatment.
  • Need for Digital Coverage: As discussed earlier, there is a shift towards digital health care. Most insurance doesn’t cover these; even if they do, they are with specific apps.

As health insurance fails to cover individuals’ basic needs, subscribing to one becomes really difficult for a person who barely manages to save a few thousand rupees a year.

Even the insurance industry understands the needs of consumers and is slowly undergoing a transformation. For example, one can get an add-on to their insurance for OPD coverage. These changes are leading to growth. The Indian health insurance market was valued at USD 12.86 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11.55% from 2023 to 2030.

The industry has a long way to go to meet people’s needs, but health insurance is necessary. While the insurance industry is not perfect, one can always find the right insurance by looking at the fine print, so don’t be fooled by the big coverage. Check if the policy matches your needs.

The Road Ahead 
The future of healthcare in India is promising, focusing on innovation, accessibility, and quality. As a vital component of this ecosystem, the medical insurance industry is set to play a pivotal role in shaping a healthier India. Equentis

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