“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton
Healthcare in India is at the crossroads with the government rolling out the biggest publicly funded healthcare plan in the world and clamping down on prices of medical devices. The Indian healthcare industry is all set to grow to over USD 280 billion by 2020, which is a growth of over ten times from 2005. This growth has been driven by several factors, including demographics, increase in awareness levels and availability of medical care in India. Healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors – both in terms of revenue and employment. Healthcare comprises hospitals, medical devices, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, health insurance and medical equipment. The Indian healthcare sector is growing at a brisk pace due to its strengthening coverage, services and increasing expenditure by public as well private players. Indian healthcare delivery system is categorised into two major components – public and private. The World Bank estimates that 90% of all health needs can be met at the primary healthcare level. India has grossly under-invested in the area that should matter the most. Though the government has taken numerous steps towards improving the living standards and the health situation of citizens in India, the impact has not been as profound as anticipated. The government of India has been making efforts through a galaxy of programs and initiatives over the years to improve the health situation of the nation.
With the government sparing just 1.3 per cent of the GDP for public healthcare, way less than the global average of 6 per cent, there remains a severe scarcity of doctors in the country and people continue to incur heavy medical expenditure across rural and urban hospitals. The country is facing a gigantic task of producing over 2.07 million medical professionals (doctors) in the next 12 years if the country has to achieve a modest doctor-to-population ratio of 1:1,000 by 2030. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the union health ministry, India has currently around seven doctors per 10,000 people, the actual number of practising doctors may be far less. The country would need at least 600 more medical colleges to come up quickly to meet the additional demand for doctors in the next 10 to 12 years. The earlier the government formulates a realistic medical education policy, better it is for the country and its burgeoning population. By 2030, India’s population is expected to reach 1.476 billion, if not more.
The existing public healthcare facilities are crumbling under severe pressure with their supplies far too inadequate compared to demand. Ministers and officials in the health department can see for themselves the plights of the suffering common man if they care to take a visit of the next door government hospital. There is no denying India’s healthcare sector has attracted a steady stream of investments, albeit at the higher end of the value chain — the secondary & tertiary care. Will it be enough unless the government formulates a proper healthcare policy?