Healthcare can advance, given the right resources

Healthcare fraternity expectations from Union Budget 2018-19 encompasses with new technology, investment, health programmes and public private partnership. Amid this, one industry that has emerged as a major break point in the healthcare sector is diagnostics thus though healthcare is exempted from GST, there are other sectoral issues that need to be addressed.

Due to the lack of directives and absence of strong regulation in the diagnostics market we witness an increase in number of unorganised, standalone players which form a substantial part of this fragmented market. The private players have willingly volunteered to introduce standardisation in their practice and follow conventions set by international medical bodies to guarantee steady and world-class services to all their customers. Estimates indicate, about 1% of all Diagnostic laboratories are accredited. As a consequence from a Diagnostics standpoint, one has firmly supported the need for a standardised, regulated Diagnostics sector and appreciated the Government’s efforts in this direction.

Consequently, the Government needs to earmark annual allocations for establishing an autonomous body regulating the quality of services. There is an immediate need to build better primary healthcare centres that would help in reducing the burden on secondary and tertiary health clinics. These primary healthcare centres should drive awareness programmes to tackle early disease management and reduce the cost burden as well. The nation needs to shift its focus from curative to preventive healthcare. Accordingly, since diagnostics pave the way and determine choice of / initiate treatment, diagnostics industry could be the focal point for driving healthcare treatment options in India.

In fact, in the National Health Policy 2017, the Government has insisted on the need to strategically invest in primitive and preventive healthcare measures. If the Government invests enough in Diagnostics, the industry can propagate early diagnosis of which in turn has the potential to improve productivity loss and / or delay to onset / eliminate the necessity for tertiary treatment.

Private healthcare manages much of the patient burden spilling from the public healthcare system. This has boosted many health insurance schemes. The fact, however, is that adequate and comprehensive coverage for a range of services and diseases remains elusive. Curative and invasive interventions, such as surgeries and in-patient care, are covered by public health insurance policies. But despite non-communicable diseases being responsible for more than 50% of all deaths in India, health insurance schemes seem unprepared to meet this disease burden.

The absence of coverage for outpatient care and pre-existing diseases is now an impediment to a comprehensive and affordable health insurance cover. Thus, comprehending importance of high investment in the diagnostics industry for early diagnosis is to improve productivity loss, delay onset of diseases and eliminate the necessity for tertiary treatment. One hopes the Hon’ble Finance Minister finds some ways to address the lacuna.

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