India’s Healthcare System Needs An Overhaul

People waiting to get registered at Motihari District Government Hospital in East Champaran, Bihar. With so few doctors employed to work in the public sector of healthcare in India, this scene is typical.
People waiting to get registered at Motihari District Government Hospital in East Champaran, Bihar. With so few doctors employed to work in the public sector of healthcare in India, this scene is typical.

A report published by Forbes on 11 September 2014 still stands true as not much has changed in the access to healthcare in India. According to World Health Organization’s 2000 World Health Report ranking India’s healthcare system at 112 out of 190 countries. The below paragraph is based on a friend’s recent experience when he was spending time and energy for the treatment of his aunt.

Diagnosis and Treatment are two sides of the same coin when it comes to Healthcare Industry. In India, Healthcare system needs revival in the current scenario as Doctors these days focus too much on Diagnosis rather than treatment which was not the case before 90’s. Every time you visit a new doctor or seek advice for a patient’s well-being, you’d be referred to some pathological lab or the other for new series of tests. It’s been more than two weeks and I haven’t come across a single doctor who’d refer to old reports and will ask for fresh reports every time you seek an opinion from the diagnostic center which he/she deemed fit. We are left with no choice but to keep running from pillar to post. Conducting such tests frequently may add to the earnings of the pathological labs as well as of the doctors. However, it also adds to financial and psychological burden of the patient and their relatives. It is observed that even an extra day of medication can alter vital parameters which the doctors are looking for and thus be making pathological tests a redundant excercise as raw reports are received within 3 hours and it takes almost a day to receive the final test report. I wonder what if someone couldn’t afford treatment as their money is spent majorly on diagnosis?

Coming back to the Forbes report, there are five main points one should keep in mind while thinking of healthcare sector in India:

  1. Rural Versus Urban Divide: India still spends nearly 4% of its national GDP towards healthcare goods and services (compared to 18% by the US). In India, there are wider gaps between the rural and urban populations in its healthcare system which worsen the problem. A staggering 70% of the population still lives in rural areas and has no or limited access to hospitals and clinics.

  2. Need for Effective Payment Mechanisms: Besides the rural-urban divide, another key driver of India’s healthcare landscape is the high out-of-pocket expenditure (roughly 70%). This means that most Indian patients pay for their hospital visits and doctors’ appointments with straight up cash aftercare with no payment arrangements.  According to the World Bank and National Commission’s report on Macroeconomics, only 5% of Indians are covered by health insurance policies.

  3. Demand for Basic Primary Healthcare and Infrastructure: India faces a growing need to fix its basic health concerns in the areas of HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhoea. Additionally, children under five are born underweight and roughly 7% (compared to 0.8% in the US) of them die before their fifth birthday.

  4. Growing Pharmaceutical Sector: According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is the third-largest exporter of pharmaceutical products in terms of volume. Around 80% of the market is composed of generic low-cost drugs which seem to be the major driver of this industry.

  5. Underdeveloped Medical Devices Sector: The medical devices sector is the smallest piece of India’s healthcare pie. However, it is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country like the health insurance marketplace.

Access to affordable and quality healthcare services is a basic right and the government/state should put efforts in ensuring it. As it is said that one person’s sickness is good enough to take down the happiness and prosperity of that family in India, it becomes the utmost important factor to ensure that falling ill and getting better has lesser or no correlation between family’s overall socio-economic conditions.

Ashish Singh is a Member of Advisory Board of Youth in Social Action Society. He can be reached at- [email protected]


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