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Innovation To Deliver Medical Solutions

Combined efforts from public sector, private sector and other stakeholders will be required to make India healthier and wealthier

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The future of healthcare in India will be driven by a few trends that are already playing out in our society. Changing demographics, evolving disease profiles, government initiatives and innovative technologies combined with newer business models are the four most important trends that will shape the future of healthcare in India.

First, the demographics. Between 2017 and 2025, India will add 64 million new members to the population pool between the ages of 20 to 50 years. This pool will grow from 596 million to 660 million adults. These young adults are the wage earners and this spurt of growth in the productive members of society will drive consumption of healthcare services that they need themselves (deliveries, infertility treatments, etc.) and services that their parents might need (heart diseases, cancer care, etc.)

Second, India is transitioning from a society largely dealing with infectious diseases (malaria, TB) to a society more concerned with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – for example heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc. In 2010, for the first time, India has more people dying of NCDs rather than communicable diseases. This is going to accelerate and by 2020, only 30 per cent of deaths will be because of communicable diseases and the rest will be accounted for by NCDs and injuries.

Urban sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating habits, exposure to multiple toxins like tobacco, alcohol, drugs and pollution is responsible for a huge increase in NCDs across India. People suffering from NCDs consume much more healthcare services since most of these diseases last for a long time and need multiple interventions on regular basis. This trend will drive significant growth in the diagnostic, hospitals and home care services segments.

Next, the Modi government has recently announced the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which will provide health insurance cover up to Rs 5 lakh for almost 500 million people at the base of the Indian pyramid. This scheme, if well implemented, will transform the healthcare landscape of India. It will lead to improved diagnosis and better care provision to a large swathe of population that is currently unable to access healthcare because of financial or other reasons. A well designed and well implemented NHPS will be one of the most important innovations in Indian healthcare post-Independence.

Finally, nearly 900 million Indians have leapfrogged into the mobile telephony age because of innovations driven by telecom operators like Bharati Airtel, Reliance Jio and others. On an average, an Indian subscriber consumed 7.4 GB of data per user per month on their mobile devices over mobile networks alone in 2017, placing India ahead of developed markets like the UK, South Korea and France. Innovators in healthcare are now working to tap into these mobile networks to deliver healthcare services. These range from telephonic or Skype consultations with doctors, to Internet of Things solutions for monitoring and managing chronic diseases and even more innovative solutions that use machine learning to deliver medical solutions (for instance, Babylon Health, a subscription health service provider, gives primary care triage services using an intelligent chatbot).

While all these positive developments described happen, concerns around cost of healthcare, quality of services provided and ethics (or lack thereof) displayed in the system occasionally will have to be addressed. Given the current healthcare system and its many shortcomings, India has a lot to gain from becoming healthier. Combined efforts from public sector, private sector and other stakeholders will be required to make India healthier and wealthier.

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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Magazine 28 April 2018 healthcare anniversary special

Ajay Bakshi

The author is CEO, Parkway Pantai India

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