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Demonetization Anniversary: Pains & Gains for Healthcare Industry Government is trying to link healthcare services with Aadhaar card and the data collected would make it easier to map the trends in the needs

By Dr. Dharminder Nagar

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As we stand at the first anniversary of demonetization, the all-pervasive monetary decision of the present NDA government taken in November 2016, we realize even more how big the move by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was.

Demonetization was a process by which about 86 per cent of the legal currency notes in the country became invalid overnight. It was one decision that took everyone by surprise and in a country where cash is the primary mode of payment for everything from groceries to healthcare. It had to cause a lot of inconvenience to the populace.

Worst affected were those who had marriage in their homes and the ones that had already boarded long distance trains with some cash in the INR 500 and INR 1000 notes — the currency notes that were demonetized. Some foreigners who were in India at that time and had the cash in the demonetized notes also faced the heat.

If we talk about the impact on patients and patient care, it was arguably the most affected set of services in the country. There were numerous requests for postponement of surgeries and appointments with doctors were cancelled. Country's largest hospital AIIMS registered 22 per cent fall in number of patients in the 11 November – 2 December period. Many pharmacies had shut shops for a number of days after the demonetization came into effect. Even the door-step services in the health care industry like home-care and diagnostics were severely impacted. Medical tourism industry in India also suffered for some time.

Demonetization has Revolutionized Digital Payments, Encouraged Transparency:

However, there has been monumental learning since then, especially for the healthcare industry. What demonetization has highlighted is the need for digital transactions and as the thrust on the same continues, it will go a long way in weeding out malpractices such as doctors recommending blood and other tests to patients and then taking a cut from the diagnostics service providers since the patients would be paying through credit cards or other digital modes of payment to the diagnostics laboratory.

Public has Now Accepted the Digital Transformation

The government is also trying to link healthcare delivery with Aadhaar card. This will help in data collection from patients and keep records of their medical history too. With ease in availability of this data, it would be easier to find out trends in healthcare delivery and needs, and thus we can draw the appropriate strategy to streamline the process of healthcare delivery and improve the overall experience and treatment of the patients.

Gives Healthcare Providers the Motivation to Embrace Technology and Digitalization

With the continued emphasis on digitization of payments well in to the first anniversary of demonetization, healthcare providers like us are increasingly embracing technology for arriving at better solutions for quality control and for better connectivity.

What people also started doing this time last year was logging in on to the internet for buying their regular medicine supplies which led them to realize the convenience attached with on online shopping like home delivery. Many of these people have now made it a habit of buying the medicines online and this has given a huge boost to the internet-based pharmacies.

Not just the retail sales of medicines, many web aggregators and portals are getting into providing health products and services in the country.

People have Understood the Importance of Cashless Insurance

The digitization push is also helping the country in another very important aspect. As the payments are getting cashless, there will be more and more people going in for medical insurance as making payments in cash for admitting a patient in hospital and availing inpatient services will increasingly get difficult. Only about 20 percent of the country's population has medical insurance and this push towards cashless transactions will coerce the people to go in for medical insurance.

With demonetization, we seem to be reaching where the healthcare in the country ought to have reached some time ago. But a lot needs to be done. It is characteristic of a civilized country to provide medical facilities to all those who need them, that too at reasonable cost and at satisfactory quality. Demonetization done, the government needs to focus on Universal Health Coverage where the inability to pay for the required health services should not come in the way of availing them. A state sponsored health insurance scheme for the populace will go a long way in achieving that goal.

Dr. Dharminder Nagar

MD, Paras Healthcare

Dr. Dharminder Nagar is the MD of Paras Healthcare.

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