5 Important Steps to Improve Healthcare in India
One of the most prominent changes that occurred in the cornerstone of medicine is the doctor-patient relationship.
Healthcare in India remains one of the largest sectors in terms of both employment and revenue generation. It has reported a compounded annual growth rate of 16.5%, and likely to be worth $280 billion by 2020. However, behind all this glitter are some ominous signs of the ills that plague the health care system. The ground reality is that healthcare in India wipes out savings and pushes families into deep debt even after one episode of illness, particularly crushing low-income groups.
The gleaming glass façade of modern hospitals paint a misleading picture of India’s healthcare, where one can easily assume that the nation’s healthcare is in good hands. Unfortunately, the facts don’t bear this out. In India, there is 1 doctor for every 1,700 people (World Bank Survey, 2012), against WHO recommendation of 1 for 1000 people. Moreover, only 48 per cent of the 1.35 million beds are functional and relevant and about 65 per cent of these are located in top 20 cities. This clearly indicates the deficit in medical professionals, and the asymmetry and inadequacies of the health system today.
Today, medicine has become more like a business now. It started with the intention to improve the health of individuals and society as a whole, and quickly escalated to something that speaks the language of profit and money. Quality healthcare remains an elusive dream.
One of the most prominent changes that occurred in the cornerstone of medicine is the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors are no longer specialists who take care of patients, but are now mere providers who see customers. Financial incentives between hospitals and specialists determine the way a substantial proportion of patients are treated. Hence, a sustainable and coherent plan that addresses the healthcare needs of the masses is majorly missing.
To overcome the discrepancies prevailing healthcare in our country, the following five steps could invariably enhance medical facilities and services and will have a profound effect on the health of all individuals.
Initiate transparency by accreditation of Hospitals and health care providers
To bring about quality in healthcare, transparency is imperative. For this, a system needs to be put in place that gives accreditation to hospitals, arming patients with in-depth and accurate information about a hospital and its services. Patients, once they rate and review hospitals, based on various parameters, can pass on knowledge and their experience related to the doctors, facilities and treatments costs etc. to other potential patients, directly affect the overall quality of healthcare delivery. This could be a game-changer in healthcare history, setting off a virtuous circle of improved quality and patient safety, making it possible for even small hospitals to join the quality bandwagon.
Regulating distribution and sales of drug
Public pharmacies often run out of free medications and in the private sector, sales and distribution of drugs is largely unregulated, and this needs to be regulated. Moreover, authorities must out a price cap on special drugs which are used for saving lives.
Incentives for professionals
Perverse incentives between specialists, hospitals, imaging and diagnostic centres and referring physicians need be removed and a level of clarity needs to be introduced.
Improving infrastructure is very important and this does not entail building large, shiny state-of-art hospitals. Most hospitals don't even have basic facilities such as water supply, electricity, and not even simple pain killers. Emergency units too, are not well equipped to handle any emergency treatment, and the unavailability of doctors at odd hours at ERs is a huge problem that needs to be addressed.
Improve frontline professionals
Healthcare professionals make up for one of the most dynamic and competitive dynamic workforce, continuously confronted with challenges and pressure of delivering. Even a minuscule mistake can lead to fatal outcomes. Therefore, they need to be trained effectively and efficiently, to give their 100%. From doctors to nurses, we need them in abundance and simultaneously educate them about the importance of quality over quantity.
The present system is inarguably not sustainable due to its inefficiency and a lack of incentives for improving performance. There is a potential to create the best healthcare system in the world and to bring forth this paradigm shift will not be easy but is not impossible. Improving health care cannot be achieved overnight; in some case it has taken several decades and even a century. But we have to begin somewhere.
Today, India is being touted as an emerging superpower, and as a formidable global economic power, accessible quality healthcare can be a key competitive strength for the country. It is time to commence the development of our medical facilities and services to help the country leapfrog into a progressive nation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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