COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the global healthcare system. Although India had the second highest number of COVID-19 cases, we also had among the best recovery rates due to coordinated efforts by government and key stakeholders. Healthcare has been at the epicenter of the overall pandemic management and placed pressure on the sector like never before. In addition to the enormous demands of fighting the pandemic and ensuring patient recovery, there have also been other unexpected push-on effects – fear and hesitancy among the people, non-communicable diseases being placed on the back-burner and impact on the business overall.
Now with the launch of a robust vaccination drive by the government, 2021 will hopefully be a better year. However, the country needs to learn from the experience of the pandemic and rebuild the foundations of its healthcare system, so that we are able to chart a clear roadmap toward a robust healthcare system in the country.
When the pandemic hit us, the Indian healthcare sector rose swiftly to the occasion and was able to test, treat patients, manufacture crucial medical equipment, and maintain supply chains despite an initial phase of disruption. India exported vital medicines and equipment to many countries. The pandemic also pushed the Indian medical devices sector to become self-reliant. Under the Make in India initiative, various state governments took up the onus of setting up medical devices manufacturing parks in their respective states, to enable domestic manufacturing of high-end medical devices at a lower cost and enhance job creation. Additionally, we saw dedicated hospitals and make-shift COVID facilities that were created in record time. Now, as the government has started the vaccination drive, India is playing a pivotal role in exporting vaccines across South Asian countries.
Today, with healthcare sector in India playing a pivotal role, we must keep up the momentum. The industry needs support from all important stakeholders, therefore, there needs to be collaborative efforts from hospital providers, medical research, government, pharmaceutical sector, medical devices and diagnostics. There is a need for increased investment in the healthcare infrastructure of the country, added incentives to aid the sector in business recovery and expansion of healthcare delivery in tier II and III cities.
In the next few years, there is a huge scope for digital health services. While technological solutions have been coming in since a long time, people’s acceptability towards it has been slow, and it is only now that we have truly tapped the potential of tech in technology.
At Fortis, our doctors and staff have used online platforms for teleconsultations with patients, screening, and monitoring of critical conditions as well as internal coordination. These tools enabled us to function at near normal levels during lockdowns. There is an absolute need to expand and support this service to enable digital healthcare to function efficiently across the country.
The private sector is a key partner of government in building the healthcare roadmap of India. As we move ahead, there are a few areas that will see maximum traction – the vaccine rollout to cover maximum people, increase in public spending and financing of healthcare infrastructure, and e-healthcare services/home care solutions, which are set to improve access and bring shifts in healthcare delivery models.
Our disease management systems and emergency response systems need to be in place as a standard protocol. We need to explore alternate pathways of healthcare delivery to deepen reach and offer quality care at an affordable cost. India’s healthcare sector will also attract more investors; hence increased FDI needs to be given maximum support in the coming years. Healthcare is vital to our development and economy. For both providers and patients in the long run, it is critical that the healthcare sector survives to serve.