India’s humongous healthcare challenge:-
- India added 450 million people over the 25 years to 2016, a period during which the proportion of people living in poverty fell by half. This period of rising prosperity has been marked by a “dual-disease burden,” a continuing rise in communicable diseases and a spurt in non-communicable or “lifestyle” diseases, which accounted for half of all deaths in 2015, up from 42 per cent in 2001-03.
- The result of this disease burden on a growing and ageing population, economic development and increasing health awareness is a healthcare industry that has grown to $81.3 billion (Rs 54,086 lakh crore) in 2013 and is now projected to grow at 17 per cent by 2020, up from 11 per cent in 1990.
- In rural areas, mobile technology and improved data services are expected to play a critical role in improving healthcare delivery. Although limited, some companies are also investing in innovative services and creating lucrative yet low-cost digital and device solutions, an example of which would be GE Healthcare’s Lullaby Baby Warmer.
- India’s healthcare sector must deal with a plethora of challenges. With the lowest government spend and public spend, as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP), and the lowest per capita health spend China spends 5.6 times more, the US 125 times more Indians met more than 62 per cent of their health expenses from their personal savings, called “out-of-pocket expenses,” compared with 13.4 per cent in the US, 10 per cent in the UK and 54 per cent in China.
- India’s existing infrastructure is just not enough to cater to the growing demand. While the private sector dominates healthcare delivery across the country, a majority of the population living below the poverty line (BPL) – the ability to spend Rs 47 per day in urban areas, Rs 32 per day in rural areas – continues to rely on the under-financed and short-staffed public sector for its healthcare needs, as a result of which these remain unmet.
Some of the key roadblocks, then, for India’s healthcare industry:-
- India has the world’s second-largest population, rising from 760 million in 1985 to an estimated 1.3 billion in 2015.
- The existing healthcare infrastructure is just not enough to meet the needs of the population. The central and state governments do offer universal healthcare services and free treatment and essential drugs at government hospitals. However, the hospitals are, as we said, understaffed and under-financed, forcing patients to visit private medical practitioners and hospitals.
- India has one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Government contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 per cent, as opposed to 83.5 per cent in the UK. The high out-of-pocket expenses in India stem from the fact that 76 per cent of Indians do not have health insurance.
- The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-center, primary health center (PHC) and CHC. PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors, with the shortage up by 200 per cent over the last 10 years to 27,421.
- There are, however, potential catalysts to improve the quality of healthcare in India. The Union Budget 2017-18 includes measures to boost rural development, infrastructure and macro-economic stability, and although the health budget has been increased 27 per cent, allocations could have been matched more holistically with the government’s ambitions, particularly when considering adjustment against inflation and new health-programme announcements.