Union Budget 2021 Expectations for healthcare: The primary healthcare infrastructure needs huge improvement for which the public spend has to be scaled up.
By Rajiv Gupta,
Union Budget 2021-22 Expectations for healthcare: Covid has changed the dynamics of the healthcare industry. Allocation towards healthcare in India has been a challenge in the past and the pandemic situation reiterates the need of increased public spending on healthcare. The primary healthcare infrastructure needs huge improvement for which the public spend has to be scaled up. The government spend is still in the range of 1.3% of GDP which is far lower than the envisaged 2.5% and in comparison, with similar economies globally.
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Health care infrastructure and skill development is a key area that the government should prioritize. Our country has less than 1 bed and less than 1 doctor per 1000 population which is far lower than the WHO recommended standards. We need to invest in setting up an increased number of medical colleges with requisite infrastructure giving due importance to key departments like central sterile services, which have a significant role to play in preventing infections in hospital environments, apart from the OR and ICUs. Equitable distribution of medical colleges in Tier B & C cities shall help.
One of the critical requirements in the healthcare ecosystem is skilled workforce. Advent of new products and technologies makes it imperative that there is continuous learning and skill enhancement for the healthcare professionals.
The government should look at the PPP model wherein the private players can contribute in this space, training infrastructure needs to be developed where HCPs can get hands on training, acquire knowledge and skills which in turn can help in better patient outcomes. The other initiative can be to ask the medical and pharma companies to direct their CSR funds for the healthcare infrastructure development and capacity building.
The government should also look at increased spending towards better preparedness in managing uncertain situations arising out of emerging diseases. We need to have connected healthcare, basically a digital ecosystem where real time data from premier government and private hospitals and diagnostic centers flows into a data center which can help tracking and monitor any changes in disease patterns and this serves as an early warning system for the country. The National Digital Health Mission initiative is a step in the right direction. This needs to be strengthened and investment is needed to create the infrastructure and capacity to collect the data and analyze them for better management.
Another area which the government can look at is the out of pocket spends. It’s estimated that the OOP expenses in healthcare in India is about 62% which is significantly higher than the global average of 18%. The out of pocket expenses would reduce once the government starts allocating additional funds for healthcare and also works towards covering more number of treatments under insurance like dental treatment procedures and home healthcare. Ayushman Bharat program can be further scaled for covering more number of socio economic classes and area like home healthcare should also be covered under Ayushman Bharat. This would be a win-win situation as the step down care for patients would happen in the home environment with lesser cost and it shall also free up the hospital infrastructure which is already constrained.
Government has also been focusing on hygiene through the Swachh Bharat program. Increased public awareness around infectious/ communicable diseases arising out of unhygienic conditions is needed. Outlets serving consumables prepared in unclean environment significantly contribute to disease burden, government can look at enhancing the supervision and have strong technology based audit mechanisms which can help detect the sources of infection. FSSAI has a substantial role to play here.
(The author is Country Business Leader, 3M India. Views expressed are personal.)