Dr Tarang Gianchandani
Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre , Mumbai

Work Together for a Better Future

Strong support and boost to academics, research, and innovations at apex level will play a vital role in shaping up better healthcare infrastructures.

The medical industry across the globe is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. It absorbs over 10 percent of gross domestic product of most developed nations. The medical industry in India constitutes broad services offered by various hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, diagnostic laboratories, dentists, doctors, pharmacies, and medical equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

On the healthcare market

The healthcare industry in India worth around USD 100 billion has become one of India’s largest sectors and is expected to grow at USD 280 billion by 2020. It is growing at a brisk pace due to its strengthening coverage, services, and increasing expenditure by public as well as private players in this sector. Healthcare delivery in India like hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostics centers, and pharmaceuticals, constitutes 65 percent of the overall market. With regards to the overall scenario in the global market, there has been a rising demand, and associated spending is being fueled by senior citizens. As per the present scenario, the healthcare industry will witness an expansion of demand in the market, increasing prices, and awareness among the customers. Such changes will trigger a change in the healthcare industry scenario for the better. However, the healthcare delivery systems in India need to be better coordinated and the growth of healthcare market should be seen as an area of potential growth by the regulatory authorities who should support and drive the growth ethically by putting appropriate policies and controls in place.

India is a land full of opportunities for players in the medical device industry. Today, India is considered as one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services for advanced medical facilities catering to larger population. India’s most competitive advantage mainly lies in its well-trained medical professionals. Also medical services in India are considered very reasonable as compared to their peers in Asian and Western countries. The government should support the technological advancement in this sector by appropriate measures because set back to diagnostics and pharma sector will have a reverse effect on growth trajectory of healthcare industry of India at global platform.

On budgetary allocation in healthcare

The overall health budget has increased from 39,879 crore (1.97% of total Union Budget) to 48,878 crore (2.27% of total Union Budget). The finance minister has announced many positive steps to harmonize policies and rules for the medical manufacturers to move toward improving affordability for the patients. One of the big promises made was 1.5 lakh health sub-centers will be converted to health wellness centers. It is a very good decision made by the government and will impact a large number of vulnerable and poor people who can benefit from this, especially in urban areas. The government has also plans to eliminate kala-azar and filariasis by 2017, leprosy by 2018, measles by 2020, and tuberculosis by 2025. It is amazing to see the focus of the government on reducing chronic diseases in India. Moreover, India is the only country that simultaneously battles chronic as well as lifestyle diseases. In addition, the fact that the government is trying to boost medical insurance will also have an additive effect, especially as it will to some extent contribute to more accessible and affordable healthcare.

On vision for health and family welfare and challenges faced while implementing health services

Health and family welfare should be more focused on preventive and primary healthcare, which is lacking significantly in our country. The vision for tomorrow, therefore, has to focus on creating awareness on preventive healthcare and strengthening the primary healthcare sector in rural as well as urban areas.

The key challenges that we face while implementing healthcare services is the cost of healthcare. Many times, the cost is escalated either because patients have not approached the doctor at primary care level or they do not have access to good affordable primary care. The incidence of lifestyle diseases and hence their complications is on the rise. The main reason for the same is the lack of preventive healthcare and awareness of the same. Once the patient faces lifestyle diseases such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes, the treatment of disease and its complications increases the cost to the patient. Hence though we all look at cost of healthcare as a major challenge, but actually the challenge is lack of focus on primary and preventive healthcare which leads to increased demand for tertiary care, which is expensive

On areas where government should invest to make healthcare more accessible

Healthcare sector in India is considered as one of the largest sectors in terms of both revenue and employment. A radical change would be seen as there is inaccessibility of healthcare to a significant part of the population. Higher GDP allocation in healthcare sector to develop infrastructure, versatile, better doctors, care providers, and basic medicines would boost the overall sector. Adequate resources and manpower are required to make strong healthcare infrastructure, which is required to provide attention to all. We can see some movement as this year’s budget was inclined toward the healthcare sector as the government has started to invest in technology and encourage local manufacturing and move toward improving affordability for patients with more importantly better care. One needs to realize that a country’s health is dependent on the health of its population. Healthy citizens can make the nation progressive and economically affluent. Hence, allocation of higher GDP to healthcare sector is an investment in country’s growth for which the long-term returns will be realized over a period of time.

On healthcare policy

The government plans to set up a single-window approval system for innovation in medical research, in order to grant permission/approvals within 30 days from the date of application to Indian innovation projects who have applied for global patent. Such overall changes in the structure of functioning will result into improvement in India as a whole. Working with clarity of norms and establishing a bench mark to regulations and policy would ensure success in the industry across the national and state levels. Another policy that is launched by the center is the National Health Policy (NHP). The NHP 2017 includes a reach to everyone in an integrated way to move toward a better India. Its achievement could be understood at an era when health coverage and delivering quality healthcare services to all at affordable cost will be implemented. Policies boosting the growth of pharma and diagnostic services and supportive policies for introduction of new technologies shall promote the healthcare objectives. Each of the focus areas in NHP 2017 should be percolated down to state level as their healthcare targets, and states should be given power to take decisions to achieve the targets, with the center managing the controls.

The country as a whole has to establish its name by introducing the most effective and advanced medical technologies. We, as a country could add specific quantitative targets aimed at reduction of preventable disease prevalence. Strong support and boost to academics, research, and innovations at apex level will play a vital role in shaping up better healthcare infrastructures.

Indian healthcare should be given a vision by taking inputs from various stakeholders including hospitals, pharma industry, bio-medical devices, etc., and based on the vision we can set up benchmarks to achieve various goals set for the country. This can be achieved by working in collaboration with other international institutions and healthcare authorities of developed nations to build a bright future for the healthcare of our nation. We would all need to work together to see a better 2020 to have a healthy future for ourselves and our country.

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