If we go by what studies have to say, at a compound annual growth rate of 16.5%, it is slated to be a $280 billion market by 2020. So, with this promising future, can India really become one of the global superpowers? It very well can if the government lays down a plan to address major setbacks facing the industry. Let us look at those major challenges at the foundation level.
We are still far from a quality infrastructure in the country. According to the 2012 World Bank survey, against the doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000 as the WHO recommends, India stood at 1:1700.
Besides, the healthcare services are concentrated in the urban areas. A KPMG report said that about 74% of the doctors cater to one-third of the urban population. The report also says that urban areas claim about 75% of dispensaries, 60% of hospitals and 80% of doctors.
Another problem is the compromised state of government healthcare facilities. A 2017 article from Medial Buyer said that there is only one government hospital bed for every 2,046 individuals, one government doctor for every 10,189 people, and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 citizens respectively. This pushes several patients to private treatments which either leads them to poverty or compels them to visit quacks.
And then, there are other prevalent issues like shortage of qualified staff, unregulated pharma market and industry malpractices.
The government will need to take immediate measures to fix these issues and eradicate malpractices. It will have to ensure that people, especially in rural areas, have health insurance coverage, given 76% Indian population does not have it yet.
India will require a bigger allocation of funds to healthcare against only 4.7% of GDP at present.
Healthcare sector has been relatively slow in adoption of technology. Age-old manual systems and human-errors have kept several medical operations inconvenient and substandard. Medical recordkeeping is one such example. The paper-based recordkeeping often leads to delay in accessing reports, diagnosis and thus cure. In the absence of a unified system, the patients repeatedly have to go through the inconvenient process of consultation, diagnosis, treatment and medication.
Recent technological advances have started to tackle this issue with electronic medical recordkeeping (EMR) where the doctors can save and access patient-records digitally with a touch on the screen. Thus cloud is facilitating a huge database which is improving service delivery, reducing medical errors and enhancing the quality of treatment. Introductions of digital facilities, wireless technologies, telemedicine etc. are transforming the shape of India healthcare sector. As per an Assocham study, India’s telemedicine market is expected to be over $32 million by the year 2020.
To expedite this transformation, the government should introduce process development plans with the due intervention of technology to streamline healthcare operations, improve patient-care and meet the human resource shortage. And quite crucially, this includes rural areas as well. Additionally, widespread adoption of IBM’s Watson will be instrumental in optimising healthcare operations.
Trained medical staff
While there is a scarcity of qualified doctors and India would look for another 4 lakhs of them by 2020, the need of a qualified medical staff cannot be ignored at all. Sadly, every year a lot of patients die due to negligent and untrained medical professionals.
There have to be comprehensive training programmes that involve fundamentals like sample collection, basic health check-ups, diagnostics, patient management, medicine administration etc., and equip the professionals to execute all healthcare services. The programmes should be able to enable them to give their 100% effectively.
And the training should not be limited to the healthcare professionals. The government and authorities should ensure that the people, young population, in particular, are aware of the importance of hygiene habits, basic nutrition, mental well-being and physical exercise.
So infrastructure, technology and training are the key pillars that can support and strengthen the edifice of healthcare development in India and the factors that can take the country at par with the global standards.
How is eHealth contributing?
eHealth is bringing the goal closer to India by contributing to these three pillars in a focused manner.
- With its eHealth clinics, diagnostics and pharmacy, eHealth is ensuring it has one-stop healthcare facilities for all the citizens across the country where they can avail a wide range of health-related services at affordable fees.
- With the use of technology, eHealth is ensuring to have a unified health system where all the medical care centers are connected with one another. Moreover, it is using telehealth services in several cases where the patients do not even have to visit the doctor.
- eHealth clinics are equipped with qualified and experienced specialist doctors and medical staff. So the patients are in good hands. Besides, it also provides necessary training to its franchises.
We understand that Rome was not built in a day. But there was a beginning, for sure. If India looks to be a global healthcare superpower, it will have to start somewhere soon. The goal may take time, but it is achievable.