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If you are involved in the healthcare sector, you are in a sunrise sector of the Indian economy: Dr Indu Bhushan

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Dr Bhushan was addressing an international webinar on the Ayushman Bharat initiative and emerging opportunities in Indian healthcare

Emphasising the opportunities in India’s healthcare sector, Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO, Ayushman Bharat (AB PM-JAY) and National Health Authority said, “Market opportunities exist in all sectors related to healthcare, as currently, there is limited penetration of health care products and services. Due to the demand side reforms executed by the government, we will see a major spurt in demand for healthcare delivery, diagnostic products and services, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other healthcare-related industries.”

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, he added, “The national health policy envisages doubling the spend on public health (currently 1.2 per cent of GDP) by 2025. The COVID-19 crisis has spurred a new era of healthcare centric thinking, and the Government of India has increased government spending that will act as a catalyst for sectoral growth. If you are involved in the healthcare sector, you are in a sunrise sector of the Indian economy.”

Dr Bhushan was speaking at a recently concluded international webinar on the Ayushman Bharat initiative and emerging opportunities in Indian healthcare, where experts from the Government and pharmaceutical industry agreed that public-private partnerships are going to play a key role in advancing healthcare and tackling COVID-19. The webinar was hosted by Nexdigm, and supported by the Consulate General of India, Chicago, in collaboration with the US-India Business Council.

The other panellists at the webinar from the series “Diversify to Differentiate – Think India, Think Next!” were Rakesh Chitkara, Senior Director, Global Government Affairs, Abbott Healthcare India; Sarthak Ranade, MD, Janssen India and member of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) India President Council; Amit Kumar, Consul General of India, Chicago; Ravi Menon, Senior Business Adviser – Healthcare, Nexdigm and Samuel Brilliant, Senior Global Business Adviser, Nexdigm.

The webinar emphasised that India’s healthcare landscape is evolving rapidly and has recently witnessed extensive policy interventions to enhance health security to a large populace. One of the prominent reforms implemented is the “Ayushman Bharat” initiative, which aims to extend access to healthcare to the vulnerable sections of India’s population. The virtual event highlighted the significance of India as a potential investment destination for international health and pharma sector companies. It emphasised that the public and private stakeholders should come together to help the advancement of health care in India and also to tackle challenges like COVID-19.

Rakesh Chitkara, Senior Director, Global Government Affairs at Abbott Healthcare India, said, “Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the health care sector has the potential to play an especially important role in the successful implementation of the schemes under Ayushman Bharat. We need to devise mechanisms where PPPs can work in a more coordinated manner at the State level. Health & wellness centers (HWCs) have demonstrated that the creation of strong primary healthcare systems closer to the communities is extremely critical to the delivery of essential healthcare services. These HWCs provide opportunities for private players to jointly work with the state governments to either upgrade or create new health and wellness centers.”

According to Sarthak Ranade, Managing Director, Janssen India, the importance of investing in health has been brought to the forefront by the current pandemic. He said, “It is important to look at how to reduce the out of pocket expenses when it comes to healthcare expenditure. Indian citizens still pay 60 to 65 per cent of the healthcare expenses out-of-their own pockets. India should learn from and adapt certain best practices from other countries and customize a solution that works for everyone.” He also highlighted how technology could be harnessed to ensure good quality of outcomes in all these programs.

Speaking on India-US bilateral trade, Amit Kumar, Consul General of India, Chicago said, “India US bilateral trade has the potential to grow to $250 billion in the next 5-7 years. The COVID pandemic has underlined the need for resilient and reliable partnerships and global supply chains, which can withstand shocks and uncertainties. During the pandemic, our long-standing cooperation with the US in the areas of health and scientific research has deepened with close contact and exchange of information between CDC and ICMR. At least three Indian companies are collaborating with US partners to develop a COVID vaccine.”

Schemes like financial inclusion as well as strengthening last-mile delivery in healthcare services together lay the foundation for sustained growth and opening opportunities for private investment, he added.

India has a large health care sector, and over the next five years is expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent and reach $400 billion. The private sector has been a vibrant force in the Indian health care industry, accounting for almost 74 per cent of the total health care expenditures. Overall, $200 billion is expected to be invested in the medical infrastructure by 2022. The key driving factors have been the rise in consumer awareness, increase in disposable incomes, urbanisation, changing disease patterns, and the expansion of both private and government health care coverage resulting in more affordable and accessible health care services.

Marc Lessem from Nexdigm gave an overview of the firm’s healthcare practice. Nexdigm supports companies with their strategic initiatives as they evolve into the new paradigm of business. Nexdigm has a special focus on healthcare and has enabled many businesses in the sector succeed across their lifecycle in India.

As a part of their knowledge management efforts in Healthcare, Nexdigm has published a knowledge paper on India’s National Health Protection Scheme: Ayushman Bharat – Growing Opportunities in Affordable Healthcare which forecasts how the program would increase the future demand for healthcare products and services, making this sector an attractive investment opportunity for potential long term growth.

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