Dr K Hari Prasad
CEO,
Apollo Hospitals Group

More Funds Needed

We are hopeful that some of the progressive steps outlined in this years Union Budget will help propel the entire healthcare ecosystem to help reach the nations stated goal of Health for All.

On the healthcare market in India

The Indian economy remains strong and globally attractive with a GDP growth projected to be around 7 percent in the coming year. We feel that this overall growth will be beneficial for the healthcare sector as well. The healthcare environment is also becoming conducive to help provide access to citizens to quality healthcare through insurance schemes, increasing the number of doctors, and expanded infrastructure facilities. We are hopeful that some of the progressive steps outlined in this year’s Union Budget will help propel the entire healthcare ecosystem to help reach the nation’s stated goal of Health for All.

On budgetary allocation in healthcare

We have remained steadfast in our demand to the government to increase allocation to the health sector. The demographic dividend that India enjoys can only translate to nation building, if we have a healthy and productive workforce. India is facing the twin challenges of the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases that are afflicting every socio-economic strata of society. Additionally, many people do not find access to quality healthcare because of issues of availability of care or costs.

We are happy that the government has taken steps to address these myriad issues by creating new AIIMS institutes that will help enhance existing health infrastructure. Similarly, increasing the number of post-graduate medical course seats is a step in the right direction. India would need to train double the number of doctors over the next decade if we are to achieve an acceptable patient-doctor ratio. Third, the government has taken a holistic view of health and plans to convert 1.5 lakh sub-centers into health and wellness centers. This is laudable as we at Apollo are of the firm belief that prevention will need to become the mainstay of our fight against NCDs.

We would urge the government to increase the allocation to healthcare so as to overcome the issues of access, equity, and availability of quality healthcare.

On challenges faced in implementing health services

As I mentioned, quality, access, affordability, and technological progress are all important to ensure a healthy population. India faces challenges in the communicable and non-communicable disease front. While most countries in the world deal with one more than the other, these are twin and equal challenges in India. The need to declare a war on NCDs through screening and prevention is the need of the hour. We have partnered with various state governments to ensure that this happens.

Similarly, we have expanded our preventive health check services to ensure that all Indians become more aware of their health status and take decisions early to prevent the progress of any chronic condition. We are also working with the government to replicate some of the successful models of health financing that we have run in various states so that a pan-Indian national health insurance scheme becomes a reality.

Another challenge that remains is the availability of the number of doctors, nurses, and allied health workers providing health services. It has been our endeavor to help train and up-skill health workers so that the available pool of specialists increases over time.

On monitoring the quality of private healthcare

Outputs without quality will not help achieve the desired outcomes. Our abiding philosophy at Apollo has been to ensure that all our patients receive quality care with unmatched outcomes. We are the first and the only hospital group in India to have seven of its hospitals accredited by the prestigious Joint Commission International, while over a dozen of our other hospitals are accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) and National Accreditation Board for Laboratories (NABL).

We are very happy to see other hospitals – both public and private – are now also vying for accreditation and this will help improve the quality of healthcare services across the board. We have a responsibility toward our patients to ensure that when they come to us, they are assured of quality outcomes. This can only be made possible by monitoring quality and reporting outcomes. We urge all hospitals to monitor quality and help improve outcomes in the years ahead.

On public private partnerships

We believe that the onus of providing quality healthcare to all citizens will need the combined efforts of the entire ecosystem – public, private, and not-for-profit. We at Apollo have partnered with many state governments to create infrastructure, manage public health institutions, partner for disease management and surveillance programs, co-create health insurance products for the masses, and helped in using technologies like telemedicine to improve access through the PPP route. We do believe that the synergistic relationship between the public and private sector will not just be additive but have an exponential effect in the provision of quality health care.

On areas where government should invest to make healthcare available to everyone on the go

We believe that the government must invest in quality infrastructure at the primary and secondary health level; this will act as the building blocks of creating an effective health system. Second, the government must invest in creating a pan-India-level health insurance model that covers all Indians. Third, the need to invest in technology – both medical and technologies that improve access to care – is the need of the hour. Fourth, up-skilling under the Skill India program to create a healthcare workforce that can cure a billion people is imperative.

On need for the states to align with the healthcare objectives at the national level

Since health is a state subject, the onus of providing health services and coverage is the domain of the Vidhan Sabhas and Secretariats of state capitals across the country. However, the Union Government has laid down emphasis on creating infrastructure, exploring PPPs, expanding the use of technologies like telemedicine, preventive screenings, and increasing the availability of doctors through increased number of seats. These are all important policy interventions that states must align with.

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