Health problems are alarmingly increasing across the globe due to several factors such as genetic predisposition, sedentary lifestyle, lack of medical infrastructure, and diagnostic scarcity among others. Every year on World Health Day, medical facilitators globally sensitize people about the importance of timely and accurate diagnosis and encourage them to adopt preventive measures to curb the menace of rising health concerns. This year’s theme ‘Health for All’ represents the gravity of addressing growing health problems like heart attacks, tuberculosis, diabetes and kidney ailments among other debilitating diseases.
India’s unique challenges
According to Mr. Vikram Thaploo, CEO – Telehealth, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited, “India’s healthcare system faces numerous challenges including a large population (1.4 billion estimated in 2023), social and gender disparities, geographical gaps, and a shortage of resources (the ratio of allopathic doctors to people is 1:1511 and the number of registered nurses is 3.3 million). The digitization of India’s healthcare system is a crucial step towards overcoming these challenges.”
Speaking on the role of the government here, Mr Thaploo says, “The Indian government is planning to establish a National Health Stack to bring all major stakeholders under one roof and facilitate the collection of comprehensive healthcare data electronically. This will reduce costs, save time, enable better monitoring, and improve patient outcomes. The portability of this data could even help prevent the outbreak of diseases and viruses. Moreover, this could also benefit pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, and medical devices manufacturers to address the long-standing healthcare challenges and create innovative solutions for improved healthcare in the country.”
Need for aggressive diagnostic approach
As Dr Pavan Asalapuram, Co-founder, EMPE Diagnostics, says, “India is overburdened with diseases, which can be reversed by implementing efficacious and tangible diagnostic facilities that are economically viable. The government is currently diligently combating the escalating numbers of patients contracting communicable and non-communicable diseases, particularly in the aftermath of Covid-19.”
Dr Asalapuram further goes on to say that after the pandemic, many patients are concerned about lingering symptoms, rendering them more susceptible to numerous ailments. The World Health Organization’s data indicate that Tuberculosis (TB), which is the second most lethal infectious disease after Covid-19, followed by HIV/AIDS, necessitates urgent attention. Additionally, the proliferation of anti-microbial resistance (AMR), which the WHO recently declared a global health and development threat during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, is seriously impeding the government’s and healthcare providers’ efforts to eradicate the disease at the grassroots level through dedicated programs and initiatives like the National Tuberculosis Elimination Program. To contain TB and its impact, it is imperative to provide patients with TB diagnostic kits like MDR-TB, which can promptly detect drug resistance. There is no doubt that TB, along with other communicable diseases, is a significant concern worldwide, and it necessitates an aggressive diagnostic approach, particularly in India.
Digitalisation and innovations in healthcare
Mr Thaploo says, “”The healthcare industry is experiencing a surge in digital transformation, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread adoption of internet and smartphones, and government efforts such as the National Digital Health Mission and Make in India. This rapid digitization is paving the way for innovative solutions in healthcare and is expected to create numerous opportunities for companies and manufacturers in the sector.”
As digital innovation continues to gather momentum, patients are likely to benefit from improved outcomes. Mr Thaploo goes on to say, “India has become a favorable environment for the growth of an ecosystem consisting of AI, robotics, telemedicine, electronic health records, IoT, and digital therapeutics, thanks to the various initiatives and incentives provided by the government, as well as changing patient demands. This ecosystem can help India plan a successful path for the future and guarantee access to healthcare for everyone”.
Role of pharmaceutical industry
To provide better health solutions Pharmaceutical companies are constantly striving to develop innovative new therapies that enable people to live longer and healthier lives. These treatments are researched, manufactured, marketed and distributed all over the world by pharmaceutical companies on a daily basis. Despite various enabling initiatives undertaken by the government in recent years, such as the introduction of the PLI scheme, increased allocation of funds and resources, new initiatives to support research and development and more, the Indian pharmaceutical industry still faces numerous challenges.
Mr Nikkhil K Masurkar, CEO, Entod Pharmaceuticals, says, “One of the biggest obstacles is the growing incidence of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, coupled with the country’s healthcare infrastructure and service gaps. To achieve universal health coverage for all by 2030, the government must continue to strengthen healthcare infrastructure and delivery systems. Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry needs to invest more in R&D and constantly upgrade its manufacturing and quality standards to ensure access to affordable medicines for all. Collaboration between government, industry, and academia, along with favorable policies, can accelerate innovation and the expansion of healthcare infrastructure.”