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Anoj Viswanathan

Anoj Viswanathan is Cofounder and Director of Milaap, an Indian crowdfunding platform for personal and social causes which has helped raise over Rs 90.18 Cr for projects across India.

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Medical Crowdfunding Makes Healthcare Available to All

An interesting trend sees more and more doctors recommend crowdfunding to patients, and help set up fundraisers

One of the key findings of the Economist Intelligence Unit for 2016 implies that Universal coverage does not mean universal access, but extending universal health coverage (UHC) can be a crucial part of improving access. 

In India itself, over 600 million people have little or no access to healthcare. There is an important distinction to be made between the ability to access healthcare services and its successful delivery to a wide population. A right to healthcare may be guaranteed in law but not actually available in reality, especially in remote or underdeveloped regions. It does not mean free coverage for all possible health interventions, regardless of the cost, as no country can provide all services free of charge on a sustainable basis. It may be accessible but not affordable. 

UHC is imperative especially in India considering the growing lifestyle associated with ailments in our society. According to the National Cancer Registry programme of the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (ICMR), one out of eight men today, and one out of nine women has the possibility to develop cancer in a lifetime of averaging 74 years.

In an interview Dr. Navin Khattry, who heads the bone transplant department at Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, listed the lack of funds as one of the major factors hindering patients from a bone marrow transplant to cure cancer.

National Family Health Survey-3 indicates that the private medical sector remains the primary source of health care for 70 percent of households in urban areas and 63 percent of households in rural areas. 

In fact, India’s private healthcare spend currently stands at $90 billion a year. Of this, merely a third is covered by insurance, and the balance $60 billion is met largely with borrowings from friends and family.

Many households incur catastrophic expenditures due to out-of-pocket payments for health which in turn can push them into poverty. This threatens a household's capacity to maintain a basic standard of living.

This is where online platforms for crowdfunding comes in. In the era of social media and digital payments it provides a utilitarian platform for a quick and convenient way to transparently ask for and render financial assistance to meet such pressing, unforeseen medical expenses. Already, fundraisers for medical and emergency needs form an overwhelming majority of 40 percent among over 10 categories on some crowdfunding platforms I have personal experience of. 

Crowdfunding has offered organisations a possibility of bringing people in, to engage society in their work, and build communities that will walk alongside them for the 'social good' of India’s overall health scenario.

Digital crowdfunding forms an additional layer after insurance cover. It bridges the gap where friends and family had always been helping, only making it easier to reach out to a larger group of people, whoever has access to internet. This is more prominent in cases where a patient would have to discontinue treatment and give up on saving their loved one due to lack of funds. Crowdfunding is also very popular for accident and trauma cases, diseases like cancer where long term care is needed, and for organ transplants, where a larger amount of money is needed.

We have also witnessed an interesting trend where more and more doctors recommend crowdfunding to patients, and help patients or loved ones set up fundraisers.

"Chronic conditions and life threatening illnesses like cancer often need prolonged and expensive care in the form of bone marrow transplantation or treatment with expensive medications. Inadequate funds is often a reason for abandonment of care even in cases where there are high chances of cure. Crowdfunding sites have helped patients get much needed treatment when their friends and family have no means to fund such lifesaving care. By setting up a mechanism that takes funds from donors to those who provide such treatments, they help build a trustworthy bridge between those in need and those who want to help. Crowdfunding channels the generosity of those who care to share a bit of their resources, not just limited to our country but from around the world,” says Dr Sujata Mushrif, consultant in pediatric hematology, oncology and neuro oncology at SRCC Children's Hospital.

Clearly crowdfunding for medical causes is growing and enabling people with a true fighting chance and health for all. 

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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