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Prognosis: Tech Aided Disruption

Most services and therapy models will start moving away from concentrated locations such as hospitals and clinics to people’s phones and homes


Even as the indian healthcare sector has grown manifold over the past few years to become one of the largest contributors to the country’s GDP, it is still at nascent stage. Reason? Making quality healthcare accessible to a billion-plus population is a challenge that the government, entrepreneurs and medical practitioners are trying to overcome. But here lies the opportunity too.

The Indian healthcare market is growing at a CAGR of 17 per cent (2008-20) and is expected to reach $280 billion in 2020. Even then, the doctor-patient ratio in the country is abysmally low at 1:1,700, a report jointly published by KPMG and Ficci suggests. It states that India accounts for 21 per cent of world’s disease burden, and what’s worse is that the out-of-pocket expenditure in the country is as high as 62 per cent of total healthcare spending.

Another set of data available with healthcare-focussed fund Quadria Capital shows that the rural sector accounts for 70 per cent of communicable disease and 50-70 per cent of non-communicable diseases. At present, 60 per cent hospitals, 75 per cent dispensaries and 80 per cent doctors are located in urban areas servicing only about 30 per cent of the country’s population.

So, going by the current figures, what does the future of healthcare sector look like? What we need today is a unified approach for long-term solutions, which would help in optimising disease-care to preventive and promotive care as well as patient centricity through data-driven, efficient technologies.

Going forward, most services and therapy models will start moving away from concentrated locations such as hospitals and clinics to people’s phones and homes. There will be huge empowerment and self intervention, enabled through technology, by individuals and clinician intervention will move towards areas of serious illness and judgemental calls. Even there, clinicians will be hugely dependant on technology and innovations to deliver services. “Healthcare models for decades were designed for non-chronic ailments, which in the future will pivot to solving chronic ailments,” says Amit Varma, co-founder and managing partner of Quadria Capital.

Echoing the same sentiment, Nilaya Varma, Partner and Head, Government and Healthcare Practice, KPMG in India says, “In next 10-15 years, the Indian healthcare system is expected to leverage technology in revolutionising healthcare, streamlining processes and addressing traditional challenges.”

Newer platforms enabled by artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning will help low to mid-level therapy solutions without the need for direct clinician intervention and, in some cases, where clinician interventions will be required, they will be delivered without the need for visiting hospital or the physician. “Surgeries will be aided by live robotic interventions and implants will be custom made through 3D printing. Further, the use of genetic and other forms of specialised testing will be standard of care for all complex chronics and rare disease,” says Quadria Capital’s Varma.

While there is immense opportunity in the adoption of the disruptive and new models of delivery, the challenge lies in the pace of implementation wherein support from regulators and education to users will be key in bringing about this change. Besides, inadequate healthcare workforce, lack of healthcare infrastructure, low insurance penetration, high out-of-pocket expenditure and disparity in rural and urban healthcare are some of the ongoing issues plaguing the sector, says KPMG’s Varma.

According to data available with Nathealth, approximately 63 million people fall into poverty each year due to lack of financial protection for their healthcare needs. Going forward, Universal Health Coverage is the primary goal. The government’ National Health Policy 2017 and Ayushman Bharat- National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) will go a long way to achieve the goal of ‘Health for All’. “Over the next 10-15 years, we will see a new Indian healthcare ecosystem with main focus on prevention and wellness, quality service, financial access and affordability, says Anjan Bose, Secretary General, Nathealth.

The government has announced an unprecedented Rs 5 lakh medical insurance cover per year for 10 crore families or 50 crore beneficiaries across the country. Besides, announcement of 24 new medical colleges should also have positive impact on health education. “With corpus of Rs 1,200 crore, setting up 1.5 lakh healthcare centres should bring good health closer to every household,” says Bose. “These centres will provide free essential drugs and diagnosis,” he adds.  Private sector partnerships through health PPPs are slowly gaining acceptance in the market. This too is eventually expected to lead to improved healthcare access in the country.

All in all, healthcare is one of the largest sectors in the country, both in terms of employment generated and revenue earned, so much scope exists for enhancing healthcare services. So, which sectors within healthcare are expected to gain traction? Experts point out that primary care and wellness will benefit or change the most in terms of paradigm in the coming years. Governments and private sector are focusing to inculcate the habit managing health in order to lower the need for secondary and tertiary interventions.

And within the sector, healthcare IT, home healthcare, super-specialty market, and telemedicine and digital healthcare are the areas to watch out for. In terms of procedures, though, robot assisted surgeries, coronary interventions and IVF treatment, among others, are expected to dominate the market.

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