Industry experts have shared optimism about accessible healthcare to the last mile patient with the launch of Ayushman Bharat (AB) Health Infrastructure Mission by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi on October 25, 2021.
“It is a dramatic change in the way health care is looked at now. All through these years, it was just limited to providing sick care by setting up hospitals and adding more beds. AB Health Infrastructure Mission now talks about tech-enabled disease surveillance systems, Digital Health ID, Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and much more,” experts opine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission. It aims to strengthen the critical healthcare network from village to block to the district to the regional and national level in the next 4 to 5 years.
Talking about the initiative Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals said, “This is a complete infrastructure and ecosystem development that has been brought in and it is a laudable step by the government. The Rs 64,000 crores scheme entails opening around 17,700 Rural Health Care wellness centers and more than 11,000 Urban Health Care wellness centers. In addition to laying a lot of focus on primary preventive and diagnostic care, in the form of adding more BSL three laboratories, opening a regional viral research institute, more emphasis on preventive therapies and primary prevention of diseases and research facilities to diagnose and prevent pandemics and epidemics of the future”
Under this mission, Health and Wellness Centers are being opened in villages and cities, where there will be facilities for early detection of diseases. Facilities like free medical consultation, free tests and free medicine will be available in these centres. For serious illness, 35 thousand new critical care-related beds are being added in 600 districts and referral facilities will be given in 125 districts.
“The announcement of Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission marks the implementation of a plan announced during the Union Budget this year. The plan indicates the government’s commitment towards a robust and self-reliant healthcare system for India which has been a long-standing need of the country,” added Kamal Narayan Omer, CEO, Integrated Health and Well-Being Council (IHW Council) pinpointing that with increasing Covid-19 cases in neighbouring China as well as Russia and the UK and Zika infection in Kanpur after initial reports from western parts of the country, it has become urgent to set up a wide-ranging tech-enabled disease surveillance system. The Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission has the potential to be the gamechanger in the Indian healthcare infrastructure development, which can further augment health services delivery modalities.”
While commending Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission as a welcome initiative announced by the Prime Minister, Manoj Kumar, Founding Partner of Val-More Action Advisory said, “Among many other benefits, this initiative will provide people with access to a full range of diagnostic services in the public healthcare system through a network of laboratories across the country, and integrated public health labs will be set up in all the districts.”
He added that Covid -19 has demonstrated how important it is to have access to fast, reliable tests. Getting swift results is also a primary requirement for various other medical conditions. Pathology and Radiology are the two essential diagnostic requirements, and nearly half of the facilities are concentrated in Tier 1 towns, thereby neglecting Tier 2/3 towns and rural India. So far, the private sector has taken the lead with 60% of the market serviced by them, while the government initiatives have taken care of 40% of the market. The demand for diagnostic services is expected to grow nearly 30% per annum for the next 5 years, and the Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission will allow the government to take the lead in fulfilling this need in places where it matters the most.
Under this mission, the necessary infrastructure will be developed for the diagnosis and monitoring of diseases. Around 730 districts of the country will get Integrated Public Health labs and 3 thousand blocks will get Block Public Health Units. Apart from that, 5 Regional National Centers for Disease Control, 20 Metropolitan units, and 15 BSL labs will further strengthen this network, said the Prime Minister.
Existing 80 Viral Diagnostic and research labs will be strengthened, 15 Biosafety level 15 labs will be operationalized, 4 new National institutes of Virology and a National Institute for one health are being established. WHO regional research platform for South Asia will also strengthen this network.
Talking about the initiative, Pavan Choudary, Chairman, MTaI said, “The launch of Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure mission will increase India’s outreach to the last mile and in turn will reduce door-to-needle time significantly. A crucial part of development of health infrastructure is also the skill building of the healthcare workers (HCW). MTaI along with its members trains over 2 lakh HCW annually. The Government and the Healthcare Sector Skill Council (HSSC) of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) have also done commendable work in this regard, even more so since Covid. More collaborations between the industry, NSDC and global front runners in this space are needed to train the people involved in the sector to make this scheme a resounding success.”
Talking about adoption of digital technologies in healthcare, Sandeep Gudibanda, CEO and CoFounder, HealthPlix Technologies said, “The launch of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is set to transform our healthcare system. By enabling Digital HealthID for every citizen, doctors will have access to a longitudinal view of patient health records for better treatment and diagnosis. Availability of medical data real time will reduce medical errors significantly and help avoid duplicate tests reducing financial burden as well. The approach to the creation of a comprehensive healthcare repository allows unique startups like HealthPlix to contribute and build on the mission to create electronic medical records (EMR) for every citizen in the country. HealthPlix currently serves 1.2% of the entire India’s Population (1.5 Crore unique patients) through its AI-powered EMR software for doctors.”
“Digital HealthID is the digital spine of India’s health infrastructure. Emerging economies like India are in dire need of digitization of healthcare services and the launch of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is a welcome move”, he added.
Talking about affordable diagnostics, Pallavi Jain, Managing Director, Krsnaa Diagnostics said, “Making quality diagnostic services accessible at attractive and affordable prices to the last mile patient even in the remotest of locations has been our aim at Krsnaa Diagnostics. We welcome the government’s initiative and are well positioned and dedicated to provide and further develop the necessary infrastructure for diagnosis of diseases. We aim to support this mission and provide the people with quality diagnostic services at highly attractive prices across the country.”
On the initiative, Sigal Atzmon, Founder & CEO, Medix Global concluded,“ The Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission will provide a significant boost to the health infrastructure in urban and rural areas. Scaling up home healthcare services would also help reduce the burden on the existing healthcare infrastructure.”
Talking about access to infertility treatment with reference to the initiative, Snneha Lukaa, Founder, BabyReady, a women’s reproductive healthcare platform, which provides end-to-end support to about 9,000 couples undergoing infertility treatment said, “AB Health Infrastructure Mission is a boon for couples dealing with infertility as they don’t have to travel far away to get the treatment done. We have had couples from tier II and tier III cities travel to urban areas in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune to get treatment, be it IVF or any natural pregnancy treatment. In a way, this launch will also help couples or individuals with infertility get access to a high-class testing network which will help them undertake the required diagnosis in a timely manner.”
On the initiative, Dr Harshit Jain, Founder and Global CEO, Doceree said,“The launch of AB Health Infrastructure Mission intends to bridge the urban-rural healthcare divide. With this, rural masses will gain access to quality healthcare– the very step to transform Indian healthcare in a true sense. After the COVID-19 outbreak, the need to bring the country’s population under one digitized network got pronounced to handle any future pandemics effectively.”