In this month’s newsletter, IHP highlights innovation in healthcare. Several examples of new ideas and their benefit to the Indian healthcare system are described in the newsletter, for example, Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to improve healthcare delivery, investment in technology and devices to treat unmet medical needs, and educational programs to cultivate future scientists. These are only a few of the innovative ways we are tackling the challenges in our healthcare system though there are many more successfully running projects contributing to this medical renovation.
We are at a juncture in the history of Indian health care when Universal Health Care (UHC) has finally been understood as the most valid goal for the country’s not-so-strong healthcare sector. This is true not only for the private players, but also the government that plans to incorporate the ideal in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
Health care in India faces multifarious challenges not only in the form of inadequacy of infrastructure, facilities and human resource but also access, outreach and consistency. As we move closer to the end of another year, lack of reforms in the healthcare sector resonates as earlier. Once again, we are left with more problems than solutions to the glaring larger issue of healthcare access.
As the last quarter of 2012 gradually plays out, the attention of authorities is focused largely on lagging growth rates. With suggestions flying thick and fast on improving economic growth, most stakeholders are once again totally missing the big picture – the role of healthcare and the impact of a higher disease burden on national productivity rates. The day healthcare receives due recognition through appropriate budgetary spends; India will soon witness a rise of at least one percentage point in its GDP growth.
Decade after decade, Maternal and Child Health issues have never registered the kind of sharp transformation that’s required to remove India from the ignominy of being labeled the worst performer globally. While the nation has handled many dubious tags before, this one is particularly galling because it concerns the highest number of death and disease rates worldwide for mothers and their newborns. Considering that the issue concerns the precious lives of young mothers and their newborns, it is time all stakeholders rose above mere statistics and instead pulled out all the stops to ensure the country performs better than mandated by MDG targets in saving the lives of our women and children.
There’s little doubt that health insurance coverage in India is extremely low, with some stakeholders identifying this under-penetration as one of the reasons for poor healthcare access. The insights of an insurance service provider in this issue shed some light on the importance of improving nationwide insurance coverage to boost healthcare access. But increasing penetration across India through the traditional means of insurers adding more numbers could take decades to meet the eventual target of covering citizens countrywide. That’s why the move to establish state-backed nationwide health insurance coverage for citizens along the lines of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana is indeed exciting.
The complex domain that healthcare encapsulates can throw up unexpected challenges – something most healthcare stakeholders are wholly aware of. But occasionally it can spring surprises too. Thanks to this edition’s theme – Trends & challenges in healthcare, health systems and policy – this newsletter contains vignettes of both challenges and a pleasant surprise.
Month after month, we have spoken about the hurdles that hinder healthcare access. But the topic this month – Technology and Innovation in Healthcare – throws up a series of solutions that show all is not lost when healthcare providers and entrepreneurs don their thinking caps to leapfrog problems, rather than be burdened under them. IHP believes technology and innovation could play a significant role in overcoming many hurdles to healthcare access – in the process curbing costs, boosting affordability and improving access.
The danger posed by Non-‐Communicable Diseases (NCDs) has long been accepted as a global challenge by the World Health Organization, the United Nations and various other entities, including governments across continents – a fact that emanates starkly in some reports of this India Healthcare Bulletin. But let’s be clear, folks: formal acceptance of a challenge does not necessarily denote concrete or effective action. In India’s case, moreover, the nation needs to contend with a double-‐disease burden of non-‐communicable as well as infectious diseases, a double-‐whammy well acknowledged by Union Health Minister, the Honourable Ghulam Nabi Azad.
IHP’s Action-oriented Approach on Healthcare
Notwithstanding multiple initiatives by the authorities to improve access to healthcare, there has been limited progress in achieving this goal over the past few decades. And lack of concrete progress on this front was precisely the point that acted as the prime motivator for the formation of India Health Progress.