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Challenges, Opportunities & Trends

Disruption led to many healthcare and other players looking for solutions in process improvements, frugal innovations and product discoveries

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The year 2020 has brought to the fore, the significance, capacity and efficiency of the healthcare sector at all levels, from the global to the local. On the one hand businesses in this sector were significantly impacted and on the other, it was charged with the responsibility of find­ing ways and means to test, diagnose, treat and prevent the disease. 

The Initial Struggle

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the healthcare delivery sector struggle with a significant loss in revenue because of patients avoiding elective procedures as well as out-patient visits. Added to this, was increase in the cost of running a facility, due to the need for PPE kits, sanitisers, separa­tion of likely Covid - 19 positive patients and continuous testing of staff.

Many hospitals also struggled with their regular doctors and nurses refusing to come to work for fear of infection. Several of the doctors and paramedical staff did in fact, contract the disease and had to be quaran­tined and treated. 

Some small hospitals could not survive these losses and had to shut down perma­nently. Others who had the sustaining pow­er and the will, rose to the challenge and geared up to treat thousands of Covid-19 positive patients. 

Protocols were created and staff was trained. Ingenuity and innovation was used every day to deal with situations hospitals had never encountered before, including shortage of ventilators and of newly ap­proved drugs and even issues with respect to handling and disposal of the dead.

Innovation & Courage

However, adversity did bring with it, inno­vation and courage. Disruption led to many healthcare and other players looking for solutions in process improvements, frugal innovations and product discoveries. 

Many players stepped in to create capac­ities for manufacturing gloves, PPE kits, masks and sanitisers and at significantly cheaper rates. We even saw a frugal version of ventilators being made in India. 

Another significant change was that of acceleration and acceptance of telemedicine and home health. Many doctors and patients were forced to adopt this method which led to the breaking of many years of resistance. 

It is expected that a large percentage of them would continue to use telemedicine consultation even after things are back to normal. There has been a boost in the use of health apps, home health devices and an increase in the awareness and focus on prevention and wellness. 

Device and Pharma companies have also transformed their sales and customer access processes to the digital mode. The last few months also saw significant con­solidation, interest and investment by large ecommerce players in the medical retail space, indicating the increasing role of ecommerce in the health sector. 

Collaborations 

Another positive outcome in the health­care world has been increased collaboration among the various stakeholders across the world. Whether it was with respect to the discovery of the vaccine, and various medi­cines to reduce the severity of the disease or medical equipment and devices, the world seemed to have converged. 

Governments, global research and donor agencies, academic institutions as well as the private industry came together like nev­er before. How else could we have achieved, in less than a year, developing and manu­facturing a vaccine which typically would have taken ten years! 

This trend is likely to continue and we will see many more alliances and networks being formed in order to leverage each oth­er’s strengths and create value for society and business. 

Supply Chain Disruptions 

The year gone by, also saw supply chains especially of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, for which India depends in large measure on China, badly disrupted. This has led to an attempt in all earnestness by the government to try and create more resil­ience and self-reliance in respect of health­care and life sciences products. 

Production linked Incentives, setting up of medical devices parks and policies to encourage research and developments (R &D) have been announced by the gov­ernment. This is expected to give a boost to manufacturing in India and reduce import reliance, which today, is as high as 70 per cent for both medical devices and APIs ( Active Pharma Ingredients). 

Lastly, both government and the public have recognised the significance of public health and it is expected to lead to a much needed increase in investment in this area.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Charu Sehgal

The author is Partner, Deloitte India

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