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Role of IT and digital in COVID management

The healthcare and medical devices sectors have grown significantly in the last decade. There is a huge gap in the current demand and supply of medical devices in India, and this provides a significant opportunity for manufacturing devices in India. Due to a heavy dependence on imports, the cost of care remains relatively high and high-end devices/equipment are also accessible to a small section of the population with a skewing toward the urban areas. At present, many medical devices manufacturers (domestic and international) are chasing this massive under-penetration of medical devices in India as a significant growth opportunity.

The market stood at ~USD 11 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 50 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 35 percent.

Key growth drivers for MedTech in India
Change in disease profile. Rise in disposable income, increase in non-communicable diseases, and an ageing population have necessitated innovation in the sector to help address the needs of ~300–500 million adults in terms of wellness and increasing life expectancy.

Growing consumerism due to heightened awareness. 15.4 million fitness band units were shipped during the fourth quarter of FY20. People equipped with smartphones and access to internet at less than USD 1 per GB are reading more and educating themselves, which is driving the growth of wellness industry.

Changing landscape of medical technology. Leading private and government hospitals are seeing a technology change almost every five years and a high number of doctors, who are trained in leading Indian and foreign medical institutes, are proving to be the catalysts for the change, demanding the best and latest technology.

Policy initiatives by the government
The sector today is comprised of manufacturers who range from large MNCs to mid-size domestic companies. The Government of India (GoI) has commenced various initiatives to strengthen the medical devices sector, with emphasis on research and development (R&D) and 100-percent FDI for medical devices to boost the market. From April 2000 to March 2021, FDI inflow in the medical and surgical appliances sector stood at USD 2.19 billion.

Medical devices were recognised as a sunrise sector under the Make in India campaign in 2014. To further incentivize investments in manufacturing medical devices, in May 2020, the government announced incentivization plans of at least ₹3420 crore (USD 4.9 billion) over a period of five years, and these funds will be offered to manufacturers only if they invest in set-ups to manufacture key medical devices.

In June 2021, the QCI and the AiMeD launched the ICMED 13485 Plus scheme to undertake verification of the quality, safety, and efficacy of medical devices. To boost domestic manufacturing of medical devices and attract huge investments in India, the department of pharmaceuticals has launched a PLI scheme for domestic manufacturing of medical devices, with a total outlay of funds worth ₹3420 crore (USD 468.78 million) for the period FY21–FY28.

Key initiatives for the future
The Indian entrepreneurs and start-up ecosystem must embrace the challenge of low-cost quality care and utilize the opportunities provided by the government to innovate, and make a real difference to the quality of life of the population.

The government must develop a mechanism to ensure that quality control is effective (to address patient safety) and efficient to ensure that approvals for new technologies can be expedited using a formal health technology assessment program.

In addition, it is important that large private players must engage with start-ups through accelerator programs to ensure that such technological innovations are supported with the right tactical and financial interventions to ensure scalability.

The most important factor will be the engagement of clinicians. If entrepreneurs can create an ecosystem, where they continually engage with doctors to deliver the technological services that meet clinical needs, they will have done yeoman service to the nation.