Affordable Diagnostics Can Single Handedly Help Reduce Health Expenditure Burden on Households
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The nature of India’s healthcare infrastructure makes India a unique country, where the people bear the major burden of healthcare expenses. It is far from ideal, and there is a need for the government to turn it around and bear a large part of the expenses. This, of course, needs policy level changes and at war footing pace.
The government needs to chalk out programmes involving more and more private players. There’s a need to initiate, own and moderate five times the number of medical services in curative and preventive care, diagnosis, administration, and transportation, with private players as category providers. The existing ones – in scale, reach and efficiency – fall short by a long distance. This will require a change in philosophical framework and administration, as seen in the healthcare systems in developed economies.
Sprucing up the governmental healthcare infrastructure is a long term plan and will need a few years if undertaken on priority. Parallelly, however, short term results can be obtained by reducing the common man’s burden of medical expenditure. An important and crucial portion of all healthcare systems, this can be done by reducing the cost of medical diagnosis and treatment. Affordable diagnosis and treatment can bring down medical expenses of households by as much as 20 percent. The government can propagate affordable diagnosis in India as well as give preference to such players in its own health infrastructure.
The coming decade will see more medical innovations that are cheaper to administer and easier to take to the underprivileged. The Indian diagnostic industry, has been growing at a steady pace in India and will continue to do so. India, in fact, is emerging as a global manufacturing hub in lesser expensive innovations and is expected to strengthen its position even further.
Digitalization Will Lead the Way
Automation and digital technologies are helping medical equipment manufacturers and service providers serve their customers better through improved workflow efficiency. There is a growing trend in the use of digitization and artificial intelligence by diagnostic manufacturers in order to provide clinical laboratories with remote access for seamless operations. On the other hand, service providers are adopting the use of web-based platforms for record-keeping and ease of communication with their patients and their care providers. This, in turn, is beneficial to patients as they too can easily access their reports anytime, anywhere.
Greater Awareness About Early Diagnosis to Reduce Critical Ailments and Cost of Treatment
Internet penetration has been creating increased awareness of early diagnosis and preventive healthcare. An informed public and increased demand for rapid disease identification is helping create healthier societies. Greater health awareness and knowledge of lifestyle diseases is driving the growth of in-vitro diagnostics. An increasing number of citizens are proactively opting for preventive health check-ups involving a comprehensive number of tests that diagnostic chains are offering. Also, the availability of home collection facilities and same-day reports is driving this sector. The trend will further strengthen this year and decade.
Rural Healthcare Ecosystem and Infrastructure Development
The Indian healthcare market is fragmented, both in its scale and geography. While in the urban areas, the trend is shifting towards chain labs offering preventive healthcare diagnostics, the rural areas are witnessing a large number of small labs, especially in remote areas. Setting up a pathology laboratory doesn’t require a skilled pathologist, as licenses can be easily obtained. Unfortunately, the number of diagnostic labs outnumber certified pathologists in the country. In such a scenario, misdiagnosis is not uncommon and most of the medical errors are triggered due to lack of skills and proper training.
Well trained medical staff, proper maintenance of equipment collectively would help in providing more accurate reports for better treatment of patients. Accessibility, affordability and quality healthcare are the main factors that will help transform India’s rural diagnostic and healthcare ecosystem into a thriving market.
Investment in clinical diagnostics has risen to record levels in the past few years. From a product development perspective, one of the driving factors has been the importance of customizing products to local needs. With recent technological advances, devices are now becoming less expensive and easier to use and interpret. Other innovations are rooted in finding novel ways of making diagnostics accessible to people in remote areas.
The Road Ahead
India ranks 145th among 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare. This will slowly but surely improve, largely owing to better penetration of affordable healthcare and diagnostics. Even today, access to quality, affordable diagnostics remains the point of concern to 70% of our population. Providing cost-effective solutions is a big challenge and the country needs to overcome its over-dependence on imported medical devices. The recent ‘Make in India’ push may just hold the key to better affordable diagnostic services reaching the remotest corners of India.
Needless to say, the Government’s role will be crucial in developing a framework and regulatory environment that it owns together with the private sector.
It’s interesting to note that with the Government becoming aware of great need for prevention of disease and hence focusing on taking primary healthcare to the grassroot level, the tier II-IV cities and towns are also setting up basic diagnostic facilities. With the government announcing that the country will have 40,000 Ayushman Bharat and Wellness Centres for primary healthcare by 2020, there seems to be a ray of hope in filling the gap of affordability and accessibility. Moreover, the government’s focus on infrastructural development in rural areas will boost the healthcare delivery chain.
The role of local diagnostic manufacturers is critical here in providing solutions that are affordable and backed by efficient after-sales services. The need to augment the availability of healthcare services, enhance the accessibility of intended beneficiaries and enable various models for enriching the quality of healthcare has given rise to Public-Private Partnership models.