Dr Anant Pandhare, Medical Director, Dr Hedgewar Hospital highlights the ways to achieve accessible and affordable healthcare
Being a developing nation with a population of 138 crore, many people do not have access to quality healthcare due to economic reasons both at a micro and macro level. A quarter of India’s population falls below the poverty line and around 70 percent reside in the rural region. It is imperative to have a robust medical infrastructure and innovation to ensure quality healthcare reaches the masses at a cost that can be easily availed and accessed without being a roadblock in progress and economic development.
The first step in this direction would be to capitalise on the affordability factor. This would require activation in the form of capacity expansion, faster resolution, and innovation in the medical approach. Up-gradation in the modus operandi, and more importantly righteousness and ethics are the key turns that will open the gates of affordability in the medical ecosystem.
Telemedicine is a perfect solution in providing the first line of consultation to patients for two reasons – faster process, quality, and cost-effectiveness. With the advancement in technology and high-speed data penetration, telemedicine is gaining prominence and would bring a significant difference in the MO of consultation. This form was not so prominent during the pre-COVID era, as the inclination towards visiting a doctor or a hospital was much higher due to traditional reasons and oblivious facts about its advantages. During the covid era, digital consults played a massive role not just for covid patients but also for others. Using telemedicine, patients can get an effective diagnosis by a doctor on video or a phone call just as they would on a visit to a clinic or hospital OPD. The use of telemedicine has been acknowledged in the medical community to serve as an excellent support system in affordable patient care.
The government has done some commendable work with its initiatives like National Digital Health Mission, National Health Helpline (Doctor on Call), Centre for Health Informatics, Inter-operable Health Records, Integrated Health Information Platform. Steps like these will ensure that healthcare is affordable and available to all.
While the promotion of telemedicine and adoption of e-health has been encouraged by the government, providing healthcare to every Indian through digital means requires the support of all the stakeholders who proactively adopt these new-age solutions. We need to look at innovation as an investment and making new-age technology in healthcare available will help in eliminating disparities between rural and urban areas.
The healthcare system in India has both government and private entities. Within this, the government-run public healthcare system majorly focuses on primary care. These are limited in number and generally focus on providing basic healthcare facilities in the form of primary healthcare centres in rural areas. On the other hand, players in the private sector offer secondary, tertiary, and quaternary care with a focus on tier I and tier-II cities. Overall, it is the private sector that continues to be the driving force in Indian healthcare. Current Govt’s increasing budget allocation for schemes like Aayushman Bharat – PMJAY has covered big population providing affordable care through private sectors. More such measures are welcome.
Trained health workers can effectively contribute to this common goal of ensuring the best and most economical healthcare amongst the needy who are economically weak. The requirement for doctors and paramedical staff is of paramount importance to create a stronger education infrastructure for paramedics and doctors and better working conditions through adequate investments by the stakeholders.
Most importantly, the aspect of purchasing power of the patient when it comes to medicines and drugs. Most medicines, including essential lifesaving drugs, are today beyond the reach of a lot of families and individuals due to their economic incapability. The medicines that are outsourced from other countries should be attempted to produce within the country with the help of the government’s support under the provision of Make in India. A better future lies in cheaper medicines made available to the masses with states procuring high-quality drugs, imposing requisite caps on their sale price, and having an inventory system that will ensure that their distribution amongst the patients is done efficiently.