COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities in our healthcare delivery system and overall healthcare industry. Our government is considering several measures for the overall economy to recover. Industry experts suggest a multi-pronged approach to strengthen healthcare delivery and outcomes. The approach includes a focus on budgetary allocation and focuses on the enhancement of capacity in the following areas:
Medical Education: In recent years, many additional medical colleges are being set up increasing the number of doctors passing out. However, a critical area for improvement is the quality of medical education and hands-on training for these doctors to be job ready to deliver patient care at a minimum standard. In addition to attracting the right faculty, there must be investments in building skill labs across medical colleges and standardising the assessment criteria and framework.
Healthcare infrastructure: Expanding bed capacity is not enough as the quality of care delivered depends on multiple factors including the type of bed capacity (Ward vs ICU), medical equipment, Oxygen supply, and Supply chain efficiencies among multiple other factors. The private sector plays a huge role in providing tertiary and quaternary care and thus should get adequate financial impetus to enhance its capacity. Hospitals, in particular, get economic SOPs like Special Economic Zones do to develop and deliver care at an effective cost for patients.
Nursing & Allied Healthcare Staff Education & Training: The nursing workforce in India has one of the highest attrition rates in the country as they go overseas for better financial remuneration and quality of life. There must be sustained investments into improving the quality of Nursing Education and hands-on training in the existing Nursing colleges to have a job-ready workforce to replace the exodus of trained nurses from India. A similar focus is needed in Allied & Paramedical Staff education and training.
Medical equipment: Most of the high-end diagnostic, imaging, intervention, precision, monitoring and surgical equipment are manufactured abroad and imported to India and come at a huge cost to healthcare providers. The industry requests the government to invite global medical equipment manufacturers to set up factories in India under Make in India to lower the cost of production and therefore price and provide employment to millions of Indians.
Research and development: Healthcare research in India is limited and needs sustained support from the Govt to enhance and increase the R&D efforts and sell the successful results to the entire world. As of now very few innovator molecules if any are researched and developed in India. The same goes for precision surgical instruments.
Healthcare financing: Considering the rising cost of healthcare, it is essential to have health insurance for every family. Unfortunately, one has to insure a vehicle mandatorily to drive on roads but the driver and passengers don’t have to have health insurance. The government should provide better financial incentives for people to buy health insurance and make it mandatory for people above the poverty line to reduce the financial burden on household savings because of illness. Further impetus is needed for the development of the health insurance industry.