Mental health experts have hailed the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announcement of setting up 23 tele-mental health centers as part of national tele-mental health program in budget speech 2022-23.
This is aimed at enhancing the access to quality mental healthcare, FM stated in her budget speech.
According to Dr. Kersi Chavda, Consultant Psychiatrist at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, “We will now be in a position to connect digitally with the the tele-mental health centres based on the guidelines and protocols to get the required mental health consultation or guidance. Patients will be able to talk to the best people in the country and have access to quality mental healthcare they could’ve only dreamt about.”
“The government has finally woken up to the fact that mental health is an extremely important aspect of life. If we are looking to make India a superpower, it cannot be a superpower as long as the mental health of all its citizens is not looked after. I recommend that in the guidelines and treatment protocols, patients also need to have access to medication which is given by psychiatrist because that is also an extremely important part of dealing with mental health,” he added.
The network of tele-mental health centers will work in coordination with the National Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru as the nodal centre. The project will be supported by the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Bengaluru.
“An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be rolled out. It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities,” the finance minister added.
The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech said there is a need to enhance the access to quality mental health counseling and care services as Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people across all age groups.
While talking about the tele mental health centres, Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, Mpower said, “The Government has recognised the mental health crisis, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, in the Union Budget. The setting up of a national tele mental health programme will go a long way in helping people of all ages to access quality mental health. Today, having a platform where people can voice their concerns freely, and safely is the first step towards mental wellness and with this, India will be able to bring about a much needed change in society.”
“The upcoming launch of the National Tele-Mental Health Program with a network of 23 Mental Health centers of excellence is a welcoming move to provide mental health counselling to people mainly affected by the pandemic. Moreover, the additional amount of Rs 50,000 crore in the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) earmarked exclusively for the hospitality and related services, is sure to enhance the efficiency of the overall healthcare ecosystem in India,” said Dr. JPS Bakshi, Founder & MD, Dr. Bakshi’s Healthcare.
Echoing similar views, Seema Arora, Business Head – Consumer & Digital, South Asia, Asia & Latin America, ResMed, “The Government of India’s announcement to roll out an open platform for the national digital health ecosystem will go a long way in promoting digital healthcare technologies in India. Digital registries for healthcare providers and unique health identities are pivotal in promoting research and innovation for the healthcare sector, all while easing healthcare access for Indians. The proposed digital healthcare registries will also help create a transformational course in nurturing good health and building world-class healthcare infrastructure in the country. ResMed remains dedicated to bringing digital health technologies and cloud-connected medical devices to transform care for people with sleep apnea, COPD, and other chronic diseases.”
“The Economic Survey 2022 highlighted that the health sector was the worst hit due to the impact of the pandemic. A nearly 73% increase in the health sector’s expenditure compared to the pre-covid era indicated the need to adopt remote monitoring and other digital technologies to support the requirements for India,” she further added.
Mahavir Bafna, CEO, Bafna Pharmaceuticals Limited said, “Digitisation of the national health ecosystem is a welcome move announced in the Budget. Digitisation of health registries of health providers and facilities will help the beneficiaries access to health facilities, especially in rural India. This will positively impact the pharmaceutical companies also, it being an integral part of the healthcare sector. “
Talking about the unaddressed areas in the Union Budget, Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD), while talking about the budget said, “The union budget 2022 had no mention about stated measures to boost domestic manufacturing. We were expecting the government to move forward on promised reforms and anticipated conducive measures to boost domestic manufacturing of medical devices. It is frustrating that against our expectations, the government has not included any measures to help end the 80-85% import dependence forced upon India. It only repeated last year’s assurance to end custom exemptions of products that can be made in India.”
The Indian Medical Devices Industry’s expectations were predictable tariff policy, graded increase of custom duty to 10% to 15% from current zero to 7.5%, clear policy on health cess and announcement on R&D related tax breaks to motivate indigenous development.
“The only positive announcement was on public procurement by allowing 75% prompt payments and bringing in a weighted price preference on account of quality which is especially critical in healthcare related medical devices,” Nath concluded.
Dr. Veeraal Gandhi, Chairman & Managing Director, Voxtur Bio Ltd, said, “The budget has set up a framework for digitising the healthcare ecosystem. The digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities will enhance healthcare delivery efficiency. The focus on strengthening mobile connectivity will eventually boost the adoption of telehealth and point-of-care diagnostics services.”
Dr Harshit Jain, Founder and Global CEO Doceree, said,”The high point of the budget is its focus on mental health. It shows the government’s commitment towards creating a holistic health environment. The pandemic has had a visibly damaging impact on the mental well-being of people. The situation got compounded as there was another epidemic we were facing simultaneously – the mental health epidemic which was global in nature. The proposed national tele-mental health programme will create a supportive environment for people to talk about emotional issues they counter on a day-to-day basis and help remove the stigma that we have around mental and emotional problems. Also, the decision to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem is yet another move to digitize healthcare in the country which surely has a far-reaching impact on making quality healthcare accessible to all.”