Indian Public health system should be driven by tech and data: Health experts

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As India continues its battle against COVID-19, the concept of resilience has rapidly evolved to include not only resilience of health systems, but also of businesses, workplaces, leadership, community, lifestyle and collaborations

In order to identify and discuss post-pandemic structure and highlight emerging imperatives towards building a strong public health system in India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised its annual Public Health Summit 2021 with the theme ‘Emerging Imperatives in Strengthening Public Health for India’ today.

Speaking at the summit, Dr Randeep Guleria, Chairman, CII, Public Health Council, and Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) stated that the ongoing pandemic has disrupted the healthcare ecosystem and public health infrastructure, and has challenged our resilience. Now, we need to look ahead and strengthen our public health system. We need to be prepared for such a pandemic in the future. Our basic aim is to have equitable access in remote areas. We should look at 2.5 per cent of the healthcare expenditure. Health is a state subject but currently, there is a lack of coordination among states.”

He added, “As far as healthcare is concerned, a challenge that needs to be met is underinvestment. Further, public health system should be driven by tech and data. There is a need to provide telehealth and tele-diagnostics in rural parts of India, and industry has an important role to play. Also, there is a need for a robust electronic healthcare system. There is also a need to increase doctor-patient and nurse-patient ratio and infrastructure needs to be improved. Then, there is a need to strengthen the public-private partnership for which different models can be looked at. CII is well-positioned to take this further.

As India continues its battle against COVID-19, the concept of resilience has rapidly evolved to include not only resilience of health systems, but also of businesses, workplaces, leadership, community, lifestyle and collaborations. This has opened up new areas of partnerships and collaborations. It is heartening to see the government and industry working in solidarity, which has significantly alleviated the impact of the pandemic.

Dr RS Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority (NHA), stated that vaccination at this moment seems to be the only way of coming out of the pandemic.

“In five months, Cowin has grown to 300 million plus registrations. Cowin is a citizen-centric platform and provides a single source of truth till the district level. From the beginning, it was ensured that the platform can be easily used to schedule, reschedule and cancel appointments. 50 countries from Central Asia, Latin America and Africa have wanted to create something like a Cowin platform. The Prime Minister has directed to share an open-source version of the Cowin platform that could be used by multiple countries,” he said.

Speaking on the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), Dr Sharma said that many services can be digitally delivered and the whole idea of NDHM is based on this concept. India can actually execute and implement it. The country has created digital artefacts such as Aadhar that will enable the delivery of digital services. One such digital product created is the e-voucher which is person- and purpose-specific, and will be launched soon. The NDHM will house all kinds of databases which will have a facility for the patient to fetch his/her records. One of the silver linings of the corona period is that we are at ease with digital consultation. The most important outcome of this is going to be generation of data for researchers and academics.

Apart from that, Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region; Prime Minister`s Office; Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Department of Atomic Energy; and Department of Space, said that COVID has brought out the resilience of Indian medical system. The young medical professionals must be applauded that they reoriented themselves to managing infectious diseases as aggressive as COVID when the main focus currently remains on NCDs. India is currently running the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world considering the huge population of 133 crore which is also heterogenous.

He urged everyone not to create panic around the third wave. He mentioned that one of the most important contributions of COVID is that it strengthened public-private participation in healthcare, and has educated the various stakeholders to work in tandem in COVID management.

Dr Shubnum Singh, Adviser, CII, while moderating the session, stated that public health is not only the domain of either the government or private, but is equally important for individual and employers.

The role of companies, vis-à-vis their employees and societies they serve is going to transform, given the recent experience with the pandemic, stated Dr Santhosh Mathew, Country Lead, Public Policy and Finance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). There is an important role for industry associations to marshal the financial, social and intellectual capital of their members. India can really become the pharma capital of the world,  by associating that made in India is of high quality. To ensure quality, we can build on the idea on the geographical indexing of products and quality practices.

Dr Gagandeep Kang, Professor-Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences, Christian Medical College, (CMC), Vellore, highlighted that when we think about the quality and competitiveness of products, India has focused on value in terms of being able to drive down costs.

“We have not focussed on the environment that promotes quality and innovation. Strengthening our regulatory system is essential for us to think about improving the quality and global competitiveness of our products. We need for the regulators to be able to assess how well a new diagnostic is performing, whether it is made in the country or outside, and make sure the quality of the diagnostic is evaluated rigorously and be evaluated over time through multiple batches. CII needs to prepare a landscaping document that has clear outcomes of its views of the ESG environment; on where are we today, where do we want to be, how do we bridge this existing gap,” she said.

CIICII Public Health Summit 2021COVID-19 pandemicDr Randeep GuleriaNDHMNHA
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  • Supratim Bhattacharjee

    This piece of blog written really well, talking about Covid-19 pandemic which has badly affected our country since last couple of years, it is important to restructure the healthcare sector. I know it’s not so easy for a population of 1.5 billions, but this is important for us to be well equipped for any other unforeseen future event.