The current global healthcare landscape is going through an evolution. This is driven by various factors such as need for digitisation of an outdated infrastructure, workflow inefficiencies, lack of access and clinical burnout. It is estimated that the US spends around 19 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, while the UK spends close to 12 per cent.
These are significant expenditures for these economies. Despite the focus and commitment from the government, people living in these countries are not happy with their healthcare systems.
The challenges contributing to this discontent are many, including lack of skilled healthcare professionals, over- or under-treatment of patients, outdated methodologies and procedures that tend to lack standardization of health across systems as well as lack of data transparency and access to patient health records for comprehensive care.
The challenge that we face as a society is that disease burden is increasing rapidly year on year due to longevity, stressful lifestyles and lack of timely diagnosis and prevention. Based on a study by this author, in the US alone, by 2030, the disease burden of only four key diseases — cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s and hypertension — will be greater than $2 trillion. If we look at India, these four diseases will lead to a burden greater than $65 billion by 2030.
Driving greater efficiencies in our health systems via digitization can improve the overall performance, but this too is happening at a slower than desired rate. Digital transformations for health systems are expensive and digitizing workflow comes with the added burden of personnel training that again translates into funding need. Production and training costs can be managed optimally by considering support in skilled, low-cost regions/countries.
We are also seeing an explosion in healthcare data. This is critical to holistic care and disease management but leveraging this data is hard due to fragmented and diverse data privacy and sharing standards across platforms and nations.
In the last decade, India has risen to one of the top 5 economies of the world. And the country’s progressive stance on global issues makes it an attractive trade partner. The country has been systematically investing in upskilling its young and dynamic labor force. Recently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that 157 new nursing colleges will be established by the government in core locations.
Being a large country, India can leverage the domestic market to develop, test and launch healthcare solutions that are relevant globally. Rapid digitization within India can enable health data collection for innovation and verification of new healthcare devices, platforms and therapies.
India is on the cusp of a huge opportunity to enhance its role in the global healthcare sector. It can shape and establish leadership in this field by focusing on a few key steps.
The recent geopolitical shifts have created a gap in manufacturing small medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Sensor enabled small medical devices are relatively easy to manufacture and can boost not just the production sector but help build a stronger raw materials supply base within India which will further boost the economy.
Why health systems across the globe are stressed is partly due to the focus on disease management rather than holistic healthcare and prevention. Ayurveda and Yoga, which have their roots in India, focus on physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
These traditional practices should be refined, packaged, and delivered globally.
For trade in healthcare to flourish, India should focus on a two-way exchange of goods and services. Along with producing and exporting healthcare products and services, it is also important to identify imports that will improve the health of the domestic population. The vision for India as a healthcare hub for the world can be realized through some simple public-private partnerships.
Firstly, organizing dedicated trade missions with key countries like the US, the UK and Australia can enhance bilateral trade, medical tourism and technology. This will convince industry as well as various nations, India’s intention to focus on healthcare.
India should continue investing in healthcare education — both technical and business — to build the right labor force to serve this ambition. The problem in the West of clinician burnout, strikes and lay-offs will increase and there will be a need to fill in the gaps.
These apart, India should invest in creating a few strategic healthcare hubs across the country that bring together device manufacturers, technology platforms, research labs and academia to support development of all areas of healthcare.
Gopalakrishnan is Fellow and Former Head, Trade and Commerce, NITI Aayog, and Rachna Dayal is Founder, Ananta Capital Management, US
The recent geopolitical shifts have created a gap in manufacturing of small medical devices and pharmaceuticals