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The Growing Demand for Primary Health Care In India Primary healthcare refers to the first level of contact between individuals and families with the health system

By Varun Gera

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Asurge in the ageing population and rise in costly chronic care needs are exerting considerable demands on the health systems in India.While the private sector has been involved in building the healthcare infrastructure in the country over the last two decades, with active participation from private equity players, the efforts are only scratching the surface of India's healthcare conundrum.

Public and Private Sectors Should Join Hands

In order to meet India's burgeoning healthcare needs, both the public and private sector will have to join hands to build infrastructure and the skill sets required to deliver care.

India, along with other developing nations, is facing serious concerns in the areas of patient-care and affordability.

Infant mortality, maternal mortality, lifestyle diseases and outbreaks of infectious and parasitic diseases are all factors that contribute to the growing concerns of healthcare in the country. India's march towards a global power requires that we urgently upgrade our care systems and policies.

Besides patientcare, Indians also have to deal with issues related to accessibility and affordability, with large percentages of the population still high on out-of-pocket expenditures. At 60%, India's out-of-pocket expenditure (OOP) for health is one of the highest in the world and this exacerbates health inequities.

In order to improve healthcare in a nation, simply building more hospitals will not solve the problem. There's a clear need for robust primary care including educational campaigns and other mechanisms to encourage people to lead healthier lives, and push for wellness as much as primary care.

The Need for Better Primary Care in India

Primary care serves as the cornerstone in a strong healthcare system. Primary healthcare refers to the first level of contact between individuals and families with the health system. It includes care for mother and child which included family planning, besides immunization, prevention of locally endemic diseases, treatment of common diseases or injuries, provision of essential facilities, health education, provision of food and nutrition and adequate supply of safe drinking water. Improvising medical infrastructure, by standardising diagnostic procedures, building rural clinics, developing streamlined health IT systems, and improving efficiency is one way to uplift the state of primary care in India.

There is a strong need for re-balancing of activities between primary care (general practice and community services) and secondary (hospital) care, combined with better, more coordinated working between these and other health and social care sectors. A shift in the model of care with focus on community, not hospitals is what is required. This approach involves the active maintenance of health, so that acute flare-ups and the consequent need for urgent hospital admission are lessened. In this way, wellbeing can be improved and the need for in-patient capacity in hospitals can be kept to a minimum.

Health policy experts suggest that systems, models, and providers oriented toward primary care may achieve lower healthcare costs. According to a study conducted by King's College in London, stronger investment in primary care would lead to significant savings for secondary care, in terms of reductions in A&E attendances, emergency admissions, and ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSCs) admissions. This should translate into reducing demand on secondary care and more care and services being delivered in the community, where it is more cost effective, and where patients want it most.

Larger primary care group practices including Health Insurance companies can apply disease managementand managed care along witheasy access to primary care and care management through technology. , Similarly, the patient-centred medical home is another model that can help in reducing healthcare spending.

The Bottom Line

Well-targeted investments in primary healthcare can improve the health of individuals and populations, which can in turn have a positive impact on macro-economic indicators, such as employment rates, productivity and economic growth.
Varun Gera

CEO, HealthAssure

Varun Gera is the CEO of HealthAssure.He is part of the CII Health Insurance and Standards Committee and industry specialists and serves a large base of corporate and insurers currently. HealthAssure, a first of its kind startup in the healthcare services space in India, was set up with the ultimate goal of being an aggregator for primary care services for corporate and individuals.
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