Where is India's healthcare sector headed?
The next five years will witness widespread changes in India's healthcare sector - from medical technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics to patient monitoring - spurred by the availability of trained medical professionals at competitive costs as compared to India's peers in Asia; commitment to quality, and business-friendly policies of the government. India will emerge as a great example for innovative delivery models in healthcare in the APAC region. Digital health concepts such as tele-medicine, tele-health and m-health are being accepted in traditional delivery models in India. But unique reimbursement models need to be explored; health information exchange improved. Also, managing chronic diseases more efficiently and supporting an aging population are urgent needs.
Will these advanced technologies reach India's interiors?
Yes. Rural India accounts for over 68 per cent of the population, but is still largely unpenetrated; it will account for incremental healthcare spending in future. The cultural preference among the young generation to live with aging parents will make India a hotspot for homecare products and services. In the past four-five years, India has seen increased investments in m-health and tele-health; e-commerce in medicine will see growth as more firms enter the segment, backed by global investors.
How will the Budget impact the healthcare sector?
On the policy front, the allocation of `48,853 crore for the health sector indicates a 27 per cent increase, which is welcome. Upgrading quality standards in the drug industry will be central to regulatory reforms for 2017. Establishing prestigious medical institutions such as AIIMS, and creating additional capacity with on-going projects will reduce the infrastructure gap. Slow roll-out of the national health insurance programme is a challenge, and health insurance coverage is less than 45 per cent. The private sector will lead the sector, and fuel digital healthcare.