Purposeful Innovation: How Startups are Solving Challenges Plaguing Indian Healthcare
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India is poised to be the world’s 3rd largest economy by 2030, according to Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg. While India has witnessed strong economic growth in recent years, it has not made commensurate progress in other areas, such as healthcare. Improvements in healthcare expenditure, outcomes, and infrastructure, especially on the public side, have not kept pace with economic growth. In fact, poor quality of healthcare is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in India. A 2018 report published in The Lancet showed that nearly 2.4 million Indians die of treatable conditions every year. The scenario continues to be dire for the country’s rural and urban poor citizens, who have little or no access to quality, affordable, healthcare. Hopefully, visionary government schemes, such as Ayushmaan Bharat, if funded appropriately, will change the face of healthcare for these groups.
One sector that can play a pivotal role in transforming Indian healthcare is the MedTech sector. Although small by global standards, the MedTech market in India is estimated at about 10 billion USD (INR 70,000 crores). This market, growing at 15-20per cent annually, is expected to cross 25 billion USD (INR 175,000 crores) by 2025. The MedTech sector includes a multitude of products, from syringes and bandages to MRI and CT machines, from simple surgical tools to cutting-edge robotic surgery platforms- and comprises over 100,000 different devices, diagnostics, and consumables. From diagnosis to monitoring, to treatment, to end of life support, MedTech touches all aspects of patient care. It is no wonder that an innovative MedTech sector is a cornerstone of any successful healthcare system- and is the need of the hour in India.
Purposeful Innovation: Solving Indian Healthcare Challenges, One Startup at a Time
The Indian MedTech sector continues to be dominated by imports, which account for 75per cent of the market. So far, Indian companies have been making “me-too” products, which compete with MNCs primarily on affordability. However, there is a new crop of MedTech startups which are creating novel technologies and proprietary, patented, products for healthcare challenges facing the ordinary Indian. This new wave of MedTech is driven by purposeful innovation- i.e. innovation that addresses specific challenges, and taps associated economic opportunities, seen in Indian healthcare.
Globally, MedTech is a focus sector for start-ups – a study of technology incubators showed that over 25 per cent of incubated start-ups were in MedTech, the second largest sector after IT. In India too, startup activity in the MedTech sector is growing by leaps and bounds, albeit from a low base. Today, there are several startups solving Indian healthcare challenges by creating novel technologies, and generating global intellectual property in the process. Startups are tackling challenges such as hypothermia management in premature babies, lung infection in ventilated patients, life support for babies outside the NICU, more accurate labour monitoring, vertigo diagnosis, post-cardiac event monitoring, and screening for blindness, cancers and other conditions. These startups leverage cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, along with electronics, mechanical engineering, and product design expertise, to create innovative, patented, products that not only serve Indian needs but address global market opportunities.