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Healthcare in India: Miles to go ahead to realise the dream

March 25, 2022, 1:40 pm

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After the Covid-led unprecedented crisis, the Indian healthcare industry is undergoing a major transformation. The Covid pandemic has brought the inadequacies and pitfalls of Indias healthcare system to the light. At the same time, the pandemic has also opened up the way for the digital intervention in the healthcare systems which are supposed to alter the healthcare landscape in 2022.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the health sector's importance and the need to strengthen efforts. The oxygen-crisis led devastation which India witnessed during the second Covid surge has shown that the nation needs to be better prepared for the health emergencies.

The old schools of healthcare system need a technological push to provide accessible health services to all. The 2021 Global Health Security Index says "all countries remain dangerously unprepared for future epidemic and pandemic threats, including threats potentially more devastating than Covid-19".

It measures the capacities of 195 countries to prepare for epidemic and pandemic. The GHS Index assesses countries across six categories -- prevention, detection and reporting, rapid response, health system, compliance with international norms and risk environment.

Among 195 nations, India ranks overall at 66 with a score of 42.8 and a decline of 0.8 points since 2019 in the GHS index. The study underlines that India has improved in detection and reporting category, but there has been no enhancement of its prevention protocols, health system or rapid response processes. The study says that although countries built new capacities during the Covid pandemic, many of them are temporary.

India scores 29.7, slightly above the global average at 28.4 out of 100 in the prevention category. The detection and reporting category that shows major gaps in the reporting capacities for epidemics of potential international concern, India scores 43.5, 11 points above the global average.

India scores 30.3 in the rapid response category which is below the global average of 37.6. India scores 15 points above the global average in the Health Category system at 46.1 and ranks 56 in the list. India scores at 47.2 and ranks 92 in the Commitments to improving national capacity, financing and global norms category.

However, in the risk environment category, India scores slightly above the global average in this category at 60.2 and ranks 73 in the list.

India's preparation for third Covid wave

The new Covid variant Omicron-led third Covid wave is knocking India's door. However, the government has prepared a plan to establish a PSA plant in each district hospital.

"The PSA plants are being established in each district hospitals, especially in far-flung areas, enabling the hospitals to become self-sufficient in the generation of oxygen for their needs and reducing the burden on the medical oxygen supply grid across the country," said Dr Bharti Pravin Pawar in the Rajya Sabha during the last session.

She said that the online digital solutions 'Oxygen Demand Aggregation system (ODAS)' and 'Oxygen Digital Tracking System (ODTS)' have been developed to ascertain the demand for medical oxygen from all medical facilities and to track their transportation.

A Covid Drugs Management Cell (CDMC) has been set up in the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) to oversee the management of smooth supply of drugs used in Covid-19 management, she added in her reply on the question of whether the data on Covid-19 deaths is being used by Government to prepare medical infrastructure for efficient management of the possible third wave in the Rajya Sabha.

The Centre is also planning to identify and train at least one 'Oxygen Steward' in each district across the country ahead of rising Omicron scare. The initiative aims to empower all healthcare workers engaged in Oxygen management and administration with the essential knowledge and skills to ensure rational utilization and avoid any wastage of medical Oxygen, especially in resource constraint settings.

On the contrary, the recently released fourth edition of the State Health Index of NITI Aayog says that nearly half the states and UTs did not reach the halfway mark in the Composite Overall Index Score, and despite good performance, even the top ranking states and UTs could benefit from further improvements.

As per the report only five larger states and two smaller states showed good Overall Performance and continued to improve on their Health Index Score from the Base Year (2018-19) to Reference Year (2019-20).

Ways Ahead in 2022

According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's 'Future of Healthcare Report', around 80 per cent of healthcare systems are aiming to increase their investment in digital healthcare tools in the coming five years.

The healthcare industry in India is projected to reach $372 billion by 2022 according to a report from Invest India. The hospital industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of the healthcare industry in India, is forecast to increase to $132.84 billion by FY22 from $61.79 billion in FY17 at a CAGR of 16-17 per cent.

With overburdened hospitals, personalized homecare is likely to grow in the 2022 as India continues to be amid the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, the government is also planning to increase public health spending to 2.5 per cent of the country's GDP by 2025.