Is the Indian Healthcare System Ready For The Next Pandemic? 

We are three years through the worst pandemic of this generation, shifting into livelihoods characterised by mask regulations, curfews, lockdowns and social isolation, and we wonder when and how the pandemic will finish. The solution to when this COVID19 pandemic will stop is anything but clear, with Omicron boosting covid-19 counts to new highs. 

What we should attempt to determine is “how” the pandemic will finish and how ready are we to tackle the next one. The solution takes into account several aspects. We are now at a crossroads which will shape the future, from an integrated healthcare system to developing substantial public and private collaborations, and from focusing on R&D and innovation to construct the health system of the years ahead to enabling our front-line workers.

Numbers As A Solution

According to the Economic Survey for 2020-21, we have to increase healthcare spending from 1% to 2.5-3% of GDP in order to “lower out-of-pocket spending (OOPE) from 65% to 35% of total healthcare expenditure.

Furthermore, when it comes to enhancing health in national budgets, we rank 179th out of 180 nations. We’ve seen how the inadequate health budget left minimal margin for operating elementary health care facilities, particularly in rural India. The battle robbed us of too many lives, from bed capacity to oxygen tanks. We need to construct a robust healthcare system to be ready for the future.

Making Medical Professionals Future-Ready

This pandemic highlighted the inherent danger of non-communicable illnesses, with one in every four Indians at risk for death from one before reaching the age of 70, putting almost 5.8 million more people each year.

By implementing tangible steps such as investing two-thirds or so of the country’s health budget on health care, as advocated in the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017, we can establish a system that will not collapse in the midst of a pandemic, assuring affordable healthcare to everyone.

Furthermore, it is critical to recognise that the public health system includes not just hospitals, but also includes medical institutions and skilled professionals who can appropriately address the nation’s doctor-patient proportion.

According to a report issued in the Indian Journal of Public Health, India will require 2.07 million additional doctors by 2030 to attain a basic doctor-to-population proportion of 1:1,000. Moreover, future preparedness will require dedicated PPP investments in retraining, upskilling and mentoring medical practitioners to appropriately address standards of care.

Using Technology For Innovative Solutions

We now have Automation and AI-enabled intelligence systems that can enhance patient care by combining and aggregating information from diverse sources and employing complex algorithms to gain further insight into a person’s medical trajectory.

Healthcare will be guided in the future by technological breakthroughs and personalised medicine, which will improve accessibility, cost, and availability to give high-quality care.

Collaboration For Achieving Sustainability

The importance of public-private collaborations in building a resilient and sustainable ecosystem was highlighted during Covid-19. Partnerships between both the public and medical technology companies will be crucial for response and recovery, as well as developing a financing strategy to support R&D.

The sort of financing we provide to the healthcare sector will also guarantee the effectiveness of the collaborative model. Diagnostics, for example, which is crucial for recognising an illness, remain pricey and unattainable to millions of Indians.

From $5 billion in 2012, we predict the diagnostics sector to increase at a CAGR  (compound annual growth rate) of 20.4% to $32 billion in the year. R&D  Financing is critical to boosting this market dominance since it will unlock the gates to technology innovations, offering solutions that enhance treatment experience and equip us for the future.

Taking A Step Forward In Future

Dwelling on the current scenario, amidst the third wave of the omnipresent pandemic, we have encountered some unfortunate truths about the pre-existing healthcare system. There is an alarming urgency of acquiring revolutionary paths and innovative solutions that can act as inherent foundational aspects that can inevitably enable us to tackle any upcoming pandemic.

This is high time to concentrate on strategies that will deliver results. Emphasising preventative medicine and investments in precision healthcare; standardising primary health care facilities; scaling up NCD-related initiatives; revolutionising women’s health; and reconfiguring the healthcare framework through sustainable collaborations.

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