Challenges are also an opportunity for innovation

Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairman, Apollo Hospitals, reflects on the challenges and opportunities facing Indian healthcare

India’s healthcare needs are ever-growing.

We asked Preetha Reddy, how we can create more inclusive healthcare models, here’s what she had to say:

India ranks 145th among 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare (IBEF). To cover bottom of the pyramid, PMJAY-Ayushman Bharat scheme is expanding Health Insurance to 40% of population- around 100 mn households.

Above this rung is another 80 mn households whose health-needs and health insurance are both unmet. This group is being referred to as the ‘missing middle’.

According to a WEF report, by 2030, India will move to an economy led by the middle class. Nearly 80% of households in 2030 will be middle-income, up from about 50% today and demand for healthcare will increase rapidly. Ageing population, growing health awareness will further fuel increasing demand for healthcare services.

The challenges are significant ranging from limited to poor infrastructure, high out-of-pocket payments to shortages and inequitable distribution of qualified healthcare workers, quality of care delivery, and lack of innovative technologies.

She also told us about how to create a more sustainable, robust delivery framework for the healthcare industry:

A robust, sustainable healthcare system will emerge if we address these issues at all levels- national, community and individual. The challenge of inclusive healthcare is also an opportunity for more disruptions and innovations.

We are critically poised to leapfrog ahead with right mix of policy interventions, incentives that forge investments into healthcare and rationalised value based pricing mechanism to ensure quality and outcomes. This requires multi-stakeholder partnerships involving government, providers, payers, health IT, innovators, investors. A value based patient centric approach, and trust in healthcare system are all factors that can facilitate a robust healthcare system and help achieve the health outcomes envisioned by UHC.

Specifically, we need concerted effort to increase the awareness for preventive healthcare and shift focus from cure to prevention. This will not only reduce disease burden, catastrophic health expenditures but complement strengthening of healthcare system in financially sustainable ways.

Technology has the power to transform our healthcare ecosystem to a robust, inclusive and sustainable one. Telemedicine and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are effectively optimising resources and achieving the same or better results. Their services offer remote diagnosis that can lead us to large-scale innovative models of disease management.

Drones and other automated delivery systems bypass infrastructure bottlenecks. Apollo Hospitals group has been working actively on this front and is in the advanced stages of launching a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of transfer of vital drugs/ medications/ equipment via drones. At a conceptual level the feasibility of transfer of organs for recipients is also under evaluation. AI’s capabilities in the detection of disease is creating new models of healthcare. Apollo Hospitals partnered with Microsoft to enable a study on the evaluation and diagnosis of heart rhythm disorders. The study involved analysis of thousands of ECGs. Critical outcome of the joint collaboration would be development of highly accurate AI capabilities as an aid in the treatment.

Achieving a robust, inclusive and sustainable healthcare system that provides quality care for all, leaving no one, is possible but with equally sustained effort and engagement of all.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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