The entire healthcare industry saw a new age of transformation in the post-pandemic era. With the focus on developing new drugs, diagnostic tests, various therapies, preventive medicine and extensive research, the healthcare crisis revamped the entire landscape in the days to come.
There has been a phenomenal amount of progress that has been made in this period, by working in unison the entire industry has set up numerous covid care centres, revamped hospital infrastructure, conducted vaccination drives across both urban and rural centres and imminent efforts taken by healthcare workers to provide best in class treatment. Furthermore, stress on immunity was made in order to help people fight the COVID-19 virus more effectively.
Diagnostics played a huge role in the pandemic through the increase in testing and formulating various virus strains that helped in the timely diagnosis and treatment of COVID patients. Thus, spreading awareness on its importance among the public. Over these past few months, techniques like genetic sequencing and testing have been more effective in identifying new variants.
India’s current medical infrastructure and policies
According to the National Health Policy of India (2017), India aimed to spend at least 2.5 percent of its entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards the health sector by the year 2025. Recent statistics show that almost 1.8 percent of India’s GDP was spent on health during 2020-21, an increase of 0.65 percent from the previous years (1.15 percent in the last year). A Lancet report published in Oct 2021, highlighted the various gaps present in the primary healthcare system. As people belonging to the marginalised, underprivileged or less educated communities received poor access to diagnostics. Due to this, almost 50 percent of these patients have not been treated for diseases like diabetes, malaria, HIV or tuberculosis. The report also emphasises on why diagnostics is important to identify communicable and non-communicable diseases by providing treatment and monitoring the progress of the same.
Healthcare Budget 2021
During the Union Budget 2021 session, the Government of India allocated Rs 2.23 lakh crore of funds towards the health and wellbeing sector. With the aim to strengthen healthcare systems holistically, the focus was laid on preventive healthcare and its vision to foster partnerships that would encourage the expansion of testing services in tier 2 & 3 cities. With initiatives such as Atma Nirbhar Swasthya Yojana (investment of Rs 64,180 crore over 6 years) and the National health mission, India is committed to making healthcare more accessible and affordable across all urban and rural centres in the country.
Future of healthcare sector
The diagnostics and healthcare sector have seen various reforms in the COVID-19 pandemic, various challenges such as restricted testing capabilities, inefficient supply chains, shortage of healthcare workers have posed a threat to the effective operation of this industry. Thanks to advancements in digital ecosystems, labs are now integrating technology powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics and data sciences. Initiatives like the National Digital Health Mission will equip the Indian healthcare industry to provide affordable, accessible, and flexible services to every induvial in the near future.
Healthcare policies should be created with a holistic outlook in mind, focusing on verticals like prevention, diagnosis, treatment and health insurance schemes that will benefit the masses. Partnerships with private players will help bolster the need for investments, research and technological capabilities.
Public health decision-making should be aided by digital health, genetic research, long-term investments and various diagnostic systems in place. Establishing an empowering policy environment will assist partnerships, communities, healthcare professionals and industries to foster a wave of innovation and provided the much-needed boost towards this sector.
Diagnostics is crucial for disease management. Early detection and treatment will help reduce the financial burden and improve the quality of life. Every step in this direction is a welcome move for the country. In order to provide everyone with an opportunity to live healthier lives, the healthcare industry must work together in supporting the cause.
(The writer is Chief Financial Officer of MedGenome)