Across India, various startups and innovators in public, private and not for profit sectors are actively working towards building solutions, which can bridge the gap between the comprehensive healthcare needs of population with healthcare providers. Presently, when healthcare market in India is expected to grow to between $450 million and $470 million by 2025 there still remains a requirement of approximately 2.2 million hospital beds in the country. In terms of manpower, our health institutions are facing a crucial deficit of over 6 million nurses and 2 million doctors.
With the rise in technological advancements, there is an urgent need for policymakers in India to harness the power of technology driven innovations to bridge the demand supply gap and achieve a universal health system that is accessible, equitable, high quality and affordable. Solutions like shifting point of care (facilitating patient recovery at home), preventive care (early diagnosis and rapid treatment) and m-health (tech alternative which reduces stress on hospital infrastructure) are ways in which the universal healthcare access can be enabled. With application of such cost effective solutions, the sector could save up to $90 billion in capital costs.
India should ignite the imagination of its brightest minds to solve toughest challenges facing the country’s health system cutting across its scale, complexities and resource mobilisation constraints. These efforts require a supporting eco system to succeed in their efforts to improve India’s health outcomes. Unleashing health innovation will require the government to embrace startups and the private sector that are at the cutting edge of technology and disruptive delivery models. Innovation is boundary less and it will transcend the public, private, nonprofit and geographical boundaries.
The leaders in the sector are looking for viable soluti?ons that have the potential to drive further efficiencies of cost, more personalised he?al?t?hcare solutions and increase patient access in remote areas. Identifying these factors, various homegrown startups are working towards providing solutions, which can bridge the the provider-consumers gap.
India needs to set up a dedicated health innovation agency in the government to exclusively focus on improving the commercialisation and adoption/diffusion opportunities for health-tech startups to create sustainable revenue and scale. It means changing the procurement, payment and adoption nor?ms across the health system.
Innovation will thrive when there is shift to strategic value based public procurement that rewards quality and improvement in outcomes. A major purchaser of healthcare like Ayushman Bharat can create a fund that rewards innovation and allows a purchaser to be strategic. Creating an innovation fund is first step, but building and management of a lasting eco system requires culture and process-change. For instance, domestic manufacturing of medical devices will require a supportive ecosystem for medical devices innovation. The essentials of building such a cohesive environment would require addressing challenges like high import duties on raw materials for medical devices (70-90 per cent medical electronics are imported), tax restrictions on setting up manufacturing centers and a limited talent pool with medical device expertise. To address this shortcoming as well as build an inclusive healthcare think-tank, India should build a portal that can link innovators with mentors and investors who are knowledgeable about health eco system. The mentors should connect innovators with resources and network required for them to survive, thrive and scale with impact. Leveraging artificial intelligence, analytics and automation can help the sector with challenges like standardising of health data and creating interoperability definitions.
We hope several announcements made in the 2017 health policy shall start getting implemented in 2019. For example, the policy proposes establishment of the national digital health authority (NDHA) to regulate, develop and deploy digital health across the continuum of care. Witnessing the execution of the vision plan into reality will reinforce the support to healthcare startup ecosystem. With this vision in mind, startups should focus on the 4As – affordability, accessibility, availability and awareness – which act as essential spokes in the wheel of growth for medical sector. This strategy will help in bu?ilding an extensive network of digital tools, which can integrate these features for enhanced efficiency and outcome.
(The writer is the president at Nathealth)