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glomc00 - The Global Millennium Class
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India's Healthcare - Overcoming Challenges and Moving into the Future To Provide Better Health and Save Lives

By Mohammad Anas Wahaj; MBA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000, USA; BS in Mechanical Engineering, Aligarh Muslim University, 1993, India
Dated: 20 May 2016


India's healthcare is an opportunity that has room for growth for all - public or private, for-profit or non-profit, foreign or domestic entities. According to the latest CII-KPMG report, Indian healthcare sector is estimated to reach US$ 160 billion in 2017, accounting for about 4.2% of GDP. It is further expected to grow to US$ 280 billion by 2020. Moreover, a report by NASSCOM mentions that India's healthcare IT market is valued at US$ 1 billion and is expected to grow 1.5 times by 2020.

Over the years, governments have tried to develop policies and have taken steps to provide better healthcare for its citizens. But India's large size, huge population (1.25 billion) and ineffective implementation at various levels, has created lop sided infrastructure and uneven development in healthcare. While bigger towns and cities have developed state of the art healthcare facilities, the rural part has lagged behind on multiple counts. India currently spends only 1.05% of GDP on public health, compared to 3% by China.

Even though villages and small towns have private clinics and public healthcare facilities, overall the healthcare for the rural folks is bad, if not worse. Rural areas also have substantial presence of unauthorized health practitioners, quacks and shamans, who take advantage of the healthcare void. Moreover, most of the rural population has to travel long distances for specialized care and in a number of cases have to sell off their assets or get into huge debt to get treatment. Health insurance in India is still not common.

In spite of all the challenges, India is taking a stride into the next phase of healthcare, riding on technological advances, new financial models and corporatization of hospitals. Healthcare comes under state government but central government has a major role to play regarding budgetary allocations and policy making. Better coordination between state and center is required to overcome structural and systemic shortcomings in healthcare. As the current trends show, government is withdrawing itself gradually and giving more opportunity to the private sector, both for-profit and non-profit, to take over the health of India's citizens. Although it is a healthy move, but considering 70% population in rural areas and large part of it poor, it would be a challenging task for the private for-profit healthcare players to give a rural push, as they generally go where the money is and seek better return on their investments.

Government has to make sure that no one is left behind, and fulfil the promise of 'Healthcare for All'. There can be public-private partnerships (PPP) in rural and remote areas. Government can also help develop non-profit healthcare facilities in rural areas in collaboration with trusts, foundations, NGOs etc. Moreover, doctors and health staff has to be convinced with better perks and benefits and above all, the passion to serve humanity, if they are to be encouraged to work in those areas. For better reach into the hinterland, technology can play an important role. Effective implementation of information technology along with latest healthcare equipment and better supply chain management can assist in overcoming the staff shortages.

Timely provision of healthcare assistance is the key to save cost and save lives. Multipronged strategy is the need of the hour. Focus on proper sanitation habits, better health awareness and adopting healthy eating and lifestyle by the large population can also play a role to tackle some healthcare challenges. FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) will come if there is a lure for making money. Spending on healthcare and general infrastructure, along with providing ease of doing business will create that lure and the money will flow. Entrepreneurs should be encouraged and facilitating environment should be provided for new ideas to flourish and creation of innovative startups. Technology, skilled and trained medical professionals, substantial investment and effective execution of best practices will help India provide what the today's citizens expect from the growing economy.

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