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Home Health Care The Way Ahead

India’s home healthcare sector, which currently is in its nascent phase is on track to grow, to a $6.2bn market by 2020

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If we delve into a story encompassing the medical profession and evoke once upon a time in antiquity, then Avicena, the great Persian medicine man will come to become a house physician of the royal family. For a longtime having dedicated family-doctor was a norm in India, and anyone growing on our movies of yesteryears can relate to that quintessential character. Cut to 2018, the trend is reviving itself in form of Home Health Care.

India’s home healthcare sector, which currently is in its nascent phase is on track to grow, to a $6.2bn market by 2020, on the back of rising consumer demand, increasing incidence of chronic diseases and rising elderly population having high life expectancy. To top these driving factors like increasing health care awareness coupled with rising household income has set the course, as people are now looking for personalized healthcare providers just like a personal trainer at the gym.

Personalized customer experiences are talk of the town these days. Big business houses are leaving no stone unturned to use data, to provide tailored personal services, which is being hailed as the holy grail of marketing. We are already experiencing this personalization daily, as we browse to shop online or toggle through our devices while streaming movies; suggestions for which is provided based on our previous search histories stored in form of digital data.

Similarly, with advanced medical gadgets –advanced patient monitoring that was earlier possible only in a hospital setting –can now be offered with remarkable ease at home. In addition to it patient’s personal and family health histories, collated and stored over a period of time at single point of contact will help in discerning optimal treatment for an individual at home, benefitting patients who are suffering from chronic ailments that require regular monitoring but not in real need for hospitalization.

One might now argue that this will be the end of the road for hospitals and hence these establishments will stay away from collaborating with the home health care providers by grousing over profits. Before we get into profit and loss, let’s first understand what India has to offer in terms of home health care and why it is being hailed as the panacea of the future to arrest the mounting disease burden of a country with an ever-burgeoning population.

An United Nation Population Fund (UNPF) report has stated that number of people in age group of 60 and above in India will go from 100 million in 2011 to 300 million by 2050, in a nutshell one in five Indians will be above the age of 60 in a country that currently house the second largest geriatric population and has a doctor patient ratio of 1:1674 –much below the World Health Organization’s prescribed ratio of 1:1000.

The UNPF report also states that as a country we will not only have 300 million people above the age of 60 by 2050, but around 200 millions are likely to have at least one chronic ailment. These data is scary for a country having low doctor to patient ratio, with non-communicable diseases on the rise, diabetes among it has become a household factor and 50% of deaths are being caused by cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases alone.

Hence, in future existing hospital sector will play a pivotal role in the Indian health care sector as the country will be witnessing a steady rise in demand for quality healthcare, but at the same time infrastructure of institutional health care sector like that of hospitals will face tough challenge to grow as per the budding demand, creating a gargantuan problem in terms of demand and supply gap, and the only possible solution to this is to pave way for home health care.

Even the home health care industry will witness a drift. Currently when we talk about home health care the general perception is that of providing nursing or post operative care within the comfort of our homes. But, in future outpatient department work and routine monitoring of patients suffering from chronic illnesses will essentially be done through remote monitoring within a home health care setup. 

The way demand for health care is shaping up in India; existing private health care players will have a major role to play in impeding the rising disease burden in a country where public health care spending is quite low. According to latest media reports the public health care spending of India is little over 1% of its GDP, which is way below the minimum prescribed standards of 5-6% prescribed in the 2015 National Draft Policy.

This situation is intimidating for a country that is on the cusp of growing health care demand due to increasing number of patients suffering from chronic diseases coupled with rising geriatric population. To top this India’s universal health coverage sector is in its infancy as a result of which total out of pocket expenditure on health in India is 67.78% almost 4 times higher than the global average of 18.2%, as per World Health Organization’s 2017 health financing profile.  

As the situation demands the way forward is to prioritize and personalize health care delivery in a cost effective manner, which will be only possible when current health care institutions streamline their efforts in dispensing care in a cost effective manner facilitating best outcome for patients by collaborating with home health care providers using right combination of technology to boost the medical system of the country.

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.

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Dr Somesh Mittal

The author is CEO, Vikram Hospital Bengaluru

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