Dr. K. Madan Gopal is an expert in public health and has worked for 30 years to develop and improve India’s healthcare system. He has worked on projects spanning many industries in India and internationally, participating in and managing programmatic, technical, and operational domains. Throughout his career, he has handled many challenging assignments and leadership positions. Working as a Senior Consultant (health) for the National Institution for Transforming India, the premier policy think tank for the Indian government, and assisting with many transformational programs for the health sector, such as the response to the covid pandemic and the Ayushman Bharat schemes
The COVID-19 crisis emphasized the healthcare system’s role as the nation’s backbone while highlighting its flaws.
Public health may be defined as the “art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (WHO)
The introduction of new technologies, structural change, and an emphasis on service quality have all contributed to a significant evolution of the Indian healthcare system over the past ten years. The quality of healthcare is by no means consistent or open-access nationwide. There are cutting-edge private clinics with cutting-edge testing and treatment technologies on one end of the spectrum that predominantly serves metropolitan populations, and there is a hole where the poor struggle to get even the most basic care on the other.
The COVID-19 crisis emphasized the healthcare system’s role as the nation’s backbone while highlighting its flaws. When there are constantly new obstacles to overcome, it is essential to take another look at the issues and develop a strategy to address them. India’s significant healthcare challenges
Fundamentally, India’s biggest healthcare problems can be divided into five categories: awareness, absence (or crisis), accountability, accessibility, and affordability.
When it comes to something so vital as healthcare, affordability is a crucial factor. The private sector is the first choice for everyone who can afford it. Public hospitals that offer low- or no-cost services are considered unreliable or mediocre.
- Localized campaigns to increase awareness have generally produced good results. For instance, behavioral change campaigns in Bihar and Jharkhand improved people’s knowledge of abortion to promote healthy behavior on both a personal and CSR level and increase knowledge of health issues.
- Another significant issue is ensuring that rural residents have access to high-quality healthcare. Some people delay seeking medical attention until major issues occur because traveling to a faraway hospital would mean losing their daily pay. Healthcare accessibility has a detrimental impact on health-seeking behavior and a more severe, although delayed, effect on the cost of healthcare. Geographical, economic, social, and systemic barriers to access should be identified, examined, and explained to subsequent generations, so they will continue to consider them.
- The healthcare sector faces a nationwide shortage of trained human resources. Medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and technical staff must also be trained, skilled, equipped, and fairly distributed among the various geographic areas. The availability of specialist therapies and the quality of services are impacted by staffing issues in remote and rural locations, especially acute ones. To guarantee that every patient in India is cared for by a compassionate, skilled, and qualified healthcare professional, India needs a clear, enforceable human resources policy.
- When it comes to something so vital as healthcare, affordability is a crucial factor. The private sector is the first choice for everyone who can afford it. Public hospitals that offer low- or no-cost services are considered unreliable or mediocre. Wasteful expenditures, such as pointless tests and procedures, need to be cut out of the healthcare industry, and there needs to be an emphasis on cost. To address the inequality of the situation, a constant focus on healthcare economics is necessary.
- Another element of the healthcare system that is lacking is responsibility or accountability. It is crucial to define processes and procedures clearly. It is possible to address the issue by fostering a culture of open communication and accountability, outlining expectations, and figuring out the underlying issues resulting in the blame being passed from one person or institution to another.
Health tech has become more prevalent in India’s healthcare industry during the last few years. Health tech is revolutionizing the method of providing healthcare services, driven by the adoption of new-age technologies like the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain.
The healthcare sector has undergone a profound transformation, with innovations ranging from online drug delivery to predictive tests to virtual consultations. As a result, many new start-ups have appeared in the health-tech sector, focusing on expanding access to critical care and healthcare.
According to market data, the allopathy industry’s doctor-to-patient ratio is a pitiful 1:1,596, much lower than the WHO benchmark of 1:1,400. In addition, India is ranked 145th out of 195 nations in healthcare. ICT-enabled connectivity will be crucial in transforming India’s healthcare sector into an integrated, effective, and patient-centered area as we head toward the era of IoT, AI, and cloud technologies. Digital innovation may be significant in helping the healthcare industry overcome obstacles, just like it can in many other industries.
For instance, on-demand health services enable companies to connect doctors and patients over the phone, online (website or app), or in person. To make appointments, patients can search for specialists based on their specialties and availability. Online patient portals also give patients full explanations of their ailments. These services may, in the long run, overcome problems with accessibility, absence, and perhaps even affordability, depending on the rate of digital adoption. However, it cannot be stressed how important it is to address healthcare issues if we want to guarantee equal, transparent, and fair universal health coverage.
(The author acknowledges the contribution made by Dr. K. S Uplabdh Gopal, Medical Intern)