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BW Businessworld

It Takes Two To Tango

Government schemes and private sector aspiration need a common rallying point for quality and affordable healthcare to reach the masses.

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If 2019 was about achieving some degree of success through Ayushman Bharat—the world’s largest health insurance scheme, then 2020 could well be the year where the private sector steps up and creates jobs while dispensing affordable healthcare among the masses. 

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the major milestone of providing benefit to over 50 lakh people under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. But this year, it should be about the potential of “private healthcare providers” to create five direct jobs and many more indirect jobs per bed, says Suneeta Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Group. “Even the capital invested will be multiplied by two-and-a half times, along with global prestige and stature driven by the Medical Value Travel programmes. These are the key strengths of the sector,” she adds. 

The Indian healthcare sector has the potential to be amongst the highest revenue and employment generator for the country, agrees Abhay Soi, CMD of Max Healthcare & Radiant Life Care. “A shift towards patient-centric quality care, enhanced use of technology in delivering care, and higher share of India in medical tourism are some of the dominant trends which the Indian healthcare sector is going to witness in 2020,” says Soi.  

In 2017, the Indian healthcare sector was the fourth-largest employer, employing 3.2 lakh people. The sector is expected to generate 4 crore jobs in India by 2020-21, says a recent report. One of the sub-segment generating jobs will be the Indian Medical Tourism Market as it has always done well, say experts. But it is now on the cusp of a major growth curve, thanks to fast expanding private and public healthcare network in India. By FY21, it is estimated to grow and cross Rs 700-crore mark, virtually doubling from its current size.

Private Push

A policy thinktank of the government, NITI Aayog clearly wants more private participation, especially in the smaller towns to run the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushudhi Yojna programme efficiently. But the continuing friction between the government and private hospitals over treatment packages and rates has been hampering the promising scheme like Ayushman Bharat, experts feel. “And without the private health services providers, it is not possible to have a supreme quality of healthcare in India,” one expert says. 

“The Centre should arrive at a genuine understanding with private hospitals over the treatment packages so that private participation under the scheme is increased,” agrees Dharminder Nagar, MD, Paras Healthcare.  

A recent Deloitte’s report predicts that the healthcare spending in India may increase at a CAGR of 5 per cent over 2019–23, up from 2.7 per cent in 2014-18. It says that the key contributors in this growth would be various aspects like rising income level, health awareness, increased precedence of lifestyle diseases and access to insurance.  

There is also a call for building capacity in tier-II & III cities, which will cater to the growing demands of quality healthcare in rural areas. Similarly, Healthcare Federation of India President Sudarshan Ballal says: “Balancing sustainability, improving quality, and value creation would be the top priorities. There is a need for quality healthcare, which has to be delivered to everyone, hence incentivising capacity building in these cities would go a long way in achieving the goal.” 

Future Prospects

The Indian healthcare sector is expected to cross Rs 10,000 crore-mark in 2020. If looked into the hospital industry in particular, data shows that it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16-17 per cent, reaching Rs 13,200 crore by 2023. And within this ongoing growth story are several sub-sectors that are shining bright. The business of health insurance and telemedicine are expected to shine further this year. The last minute health insurance plans are on offer and being lapped up by well-to-do citizens, especially those that are traveling abroad. 

Comprehensive healthcare insurance solutions are available in plenty, mainly targeted at the upwardly mobile, high-income demographics. The potential size of health insurance cover in India is Rs 650 lakh crore (at Rs 5 lakh per life) as against Rs 130-140 lakh crore currently. As more and more people opt for any form of health insurance cover, this market will only boom, says an insurance expert. 

Another fast-emerging trend in India is Telemedicine. Major hospitals like AIIMS and Apollo have adopted telemedicine services. Witnessing this, other hospitals are also entering into several public-private partnerships in this area.    

“Telemedicine would continue to be the game-changer facilitating increased access to quality healthcare services. This would be all the more important given the limited accessibility to and availability of doctors in our country,” says Alexander Kuruvilla, Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer, Practo.  

“Online consultation help in mitigating the impact of shortage of doctors and tend to provide easy access to patients in remote and underserved areas,” he adds.