Inside the unfolding healthtech revolution

Synopsis: Growth of Digitalisation in India is catalysing the growth of innovative Healthtech startups and this gives India an opportunity to address the issues plaguing India’s Public health care.

What are the issues plaguing India’s public health care?

COVID has put the focus back on India’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which has been affected by issues of accessibility, affordability and availability.

Inadequate spending: At 1.26% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the government’s spending on healthcare has been very low.

Poor quality of services: When it comes to the quality and accessibility of healthcare, India’s rank is poor (145 out of 195 countries), according to the Lancet’s global disease burden study.

Issues related to health resources: Besides low public investment, there are also issues of efficiency, absenteeism, and availability of specialists in government facilities. Further, there are both manpower and infrastructure shortages.

Lack of accountability: The biggest bottleneck the Government health centres face are attitudinal issues. There is an accountability crisis. There are very limited implications for poor performance and outcomes

Narrow outlook: Government healthcare, focused on women and children in primary care, must also accord attention to other areas that deserve attention, such as diabetes.

Lack of coordination: Entire machinery is fragmented and works in silos. There are different programmes for different diseases, from HIV to TB. And there are two parallel systems, one funded by the state governments and the other centrally funded under the National Health Mission, which often do not coordinate with each other.

Note: Digitization means to convert something into a digital format, and usually refers to encoding of data and documents. Digitalization means to convert business processes over to use digital technologies, instead of analogue or offline systems such as paper or whiteboards.

How growing digitalisation is helping revolutionise health sector?

Health is being prioritized: COVID has accelerated the digitization wave everywhere, including in health. And state governments as well as the Centre are finally prioritizing the health sector.

Unified Health Interface (UHI): Plans are underway to build a digital backbone for healthcare. The National Health Authority is building a unified health interface or UHI as part of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). UHI will help connect patients and healthcare service providers, aiding them in discovery, payments and access to health services across applications. It is also working to digitize and standardize patient health records to ensure easy access and interoperability.

Increased use of digital platforms: The government is increasingly using digital (platforms/services) to act as a force multiplier. This is catalyzing the growth of healthtech startups and venture capital investments in healthtech startups.

With over 5,000 healthtech startups, health industry is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39% to touch $5 billion by 2023.

Case study: How Bidar in K’tka handled 2nd COVID wave with the help of a healthtech startup?
What is the way forward?

First, intent and investments, must increase sharply to help millions of poor people access better healthcare services.

Second, instead of one size fits all, policies and models must be customized to specific geographies to make it more effective.

Third, at a policy level, India needs a more flexible, practical and modular approach to train and upskill healthcare professionals. In Ethiopia, nurses can train to upgrade themselves to become surgeons. India could do the same with ASHA workers.

Source: This post is based on the article “INSIDE THE UNFOLDING HEALTHTECH REVOLUTION” published in the Live Mint on 7th September 2021.


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