Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors, not only in terms of revenue and employment but also providing in ease-of-access to services and treatments to the common public. In comparison to the global healthcare market, Indian healthcare market is at par, growing at a brisk pace, catering to the strengthened geographical coverage, services provided, and an increase in investments by both public and private players.
Key components of the healthcare market in India are hospitals (government and private), pharmaceuticals, diagnostics (imaging and pathology), medical equipment and supplies, medical insurance, and telemedicine. By 2020, India is expected to rank amongst the top three healthcare markets in the world in terms of incremental growth.
In case of diagnostics, many patients have been benefitted with better services and ease of access. Earlier, patients had to queue up in front of the diagnostic labs but now with advent of better technology, most of the tests can be booked online.
The Indian healthcare sector is expected to reach USD 280 billion by 2020. Rising income level, greater health awareness, and increasing burden of lifestyle diseases are the key contributors to growth.
On budgetary allocation in healthcare
Until now, the budget allocated for the Indian healthcare was up to 1–1.3 percent of our GDP, of which most of the funds were allocated for development of government medical colleges, and hence less attention was paid to the healthcare infrastructure in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities. If we compare budget allocation of any developed country like the USA (15 percent of GDP) or UK (12–15 percent of their GDP), allocation of budget remains very less in our country, which needs to be raised.
Moreover, with the advent of many public-beneficial schemes in India, the notion is to provide healthcare facilities to all at affordable prices. Involvement of more private players, especially in the rural areas of Tier-IV cities will also boost the current condition. Instead of opening many multispecialty hospitals in metro cities, the government and private sector (corporate hospitals) can focus on developing primary and secondary care hospitals in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities. This would not only result in providing better access to the patients in far flung areas, but would also have a robust division of services geographically.
In lieu of such allocation, the online platform, 3hcare.in has recently launched several offline labs in rural areas, and is planning to set up pathology labs in those areas that are devoid of such basic facilities.
On your planned budgetary allocation for the fiscal year 2019-20
As online healthcare platforms are proving to be a big boon, we have seen a 50-time rise in the number of patients, opting for online bookings through our portal 3hcare.in. This clearly shows the demand for ease of facility like keeping one’s record online, free sample collection, and many other services. 3hcare.in recently received their second round of funding within 15 months of inception and is planning to invest two-thirds of their funding in developing the IT and infrastructure of the portal. With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), we aim to improve the user experience.
On vision for health and family welfare
Our online portal already has been providing complete family health packages for getting major diagnostic tests at their convenience. Many such steps have been taken by the online portal, keeping in mind the complete family health coverage. Our vision is not only to focus on individual but the complete family and public as a unit. We have also conducted many healthcare camps in rural areas of North India, only to raise awareness among the masses regarding some ailments, which may affect them genetically. Many sessions were also conducted after the free health checkup camps, where doctors and experts highlighted the importance of hygiene, especially in families with kids under the age of five years. As their immune system is highly vulnerable to be attacked by virus and bacteria, it is important for to keep children away from air- and water-borne diseases.
Initially, developing a team was a great challenge. Mapping out the areas where people are not only unaware about the importance of timely and regular health checkups but also are devoid of such facilities is not an easy task. As a part of online services, it was not easy to make them understand how regular screening helped in keeping and managing them healthy. So, the idea came up as a part of our CSR activity to conduct such free health checkup camps, which actually gained better response. We are still continuing to conduct such camps on regular basis and have completed over 500 camps till date.
On monitoring the quality of private healthcare
After the advent of private players, the rural healthcare structure is bound toward betterment with quality services. Instead of going for multispecialty hospitals, private and corporate hospitals can open secondary care hospitals with 50–100 bed systems in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities. In the recent years, more and more corporate hospitals have been based in metro cities, which is not the need of the hour. Instead of spending crores of rupees in setting up superspecialty hospitals in Tier-I cities (which is already over flooded), small hospitals in Tier-IV cities would not only help the local patients but also relieve the overcrowded supply deficit hospitals in metros.
According to me, rural areas, which are devoid of basic health facilities, should at least have the facilities for basic healthcare needs to be addressed. Setting up of primary and tertiary care hospitals in such areas with emergency and casualty, medicine, and maternity centers would solve most of their issues. And other specialties can be outsourced.
Digitization is one of the mediums that is benefitting many patients. Our online portal 3hcare.in renders such services as not only allow ease-of-access to the patients but they can also choose the best of labs as per their wish.
On public-private partnership in making healthcare a success
Public-private partnerships is one of the most promising models for financing successful healthcare innovations. More and more private sector needs to involve themselves for the betterment and quality services provided in the rural areas. Healthcare is one of India’s largest sectors, in terms of revenue and employment, and is expanding rapidly. The Indian healthcare sector has emerged as one of the most challenging sectors as well as one of the largest service sector industries in India and at par with the world in terms of quality.
On areas where government should invest
Unfortunately, allocation of funds from GDP is very low in comparison to other countries. We hardly spend 1.3 percent of GDP for health and out that also 75 percent budget goes to management of medical colleges and tertiary superspecialty hospitals. Even the budget allocation by the government in Tier-III and Tier-IV cities in the primary healthcare sector is low. So, what needs to be done is that both the government and the corporate hospitals need to concentrate on these areas. And time has come when there should be a policy change in healthcare, meaning that now both government as well as corporate hospitals should think of developing secondary care hospitals in these areas. These secondary care hospitals will take care of the primary and secondary health.
If we are able to take care of emergency, medical emergency, and maternity work and with a robust referral system along with diagnostic facilities, much better healthcare will be developed in the upcoming 5–7 years, which is the requirement of the country.
On policy interventions
Policies need to be open and transparent; the leadership from the private sector can help in development of a robust system for a well-structured and organized healthcare system in the country.