Dr.Prathap C Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group, on the Indian Healthcare Industry as featured in the Corporate Dossier, the Economic Times, 4th Jan, 2013. He says that the Indian healthcare industry is growing at a fast pace. It will play an important role in the coming years, contributing significantly to the GDP growth of the country.
The Economic Times - Corporate Dossier - Jan 4, 2013
The Indian healthcare industry is growing at a fast pace, driven by factors such as improving healthcare infrastructure, emergence of new delivery models and rise in healthcare expenditures. It will play an important role in the coming years, contributing significantly to the GDP growth of the country. It's a fact that Indians and the world seem to be getting sick in a proportion larger than we can cure them! However, people who think healthcare is an opportunity rather than a serious responsibility get it wrong. Running a healthcare business means being available 24 x 7, the cost of not doing so is a human life. Health has no holiday.
Secondly, the risks far exceed the monetary rewards in comparison to any other country and possibly most other businesses. Lastly, 30 years ago, when I opened Apollo, the price of an open heart surgery was Rs 2 lakh and it is hardly any different today. Despite inflation, new technology costs, capital and input increases, our real time costs have decreased. We are the only country in the world which can claim this.
Healthcare services in India, today, are as good as anywhere in the world and we must be proud of this fact. Moreover, healthcare in India is very much affordable. We are doing very well in medical tourism and I have no doubt that India would be able to become a global healthcare destination in future. We have the best doctors, the best nurses, the best technologies and the best managers coupled with great prices. I think we have the best talent in the country, second to none. The reason I love this space so much is not just because I'm a doctor and sworn to an oath to heal. But it is the satisfaction I get from keeping India well since the cost of disease can cripple our economy more than a war. It is the satisfaction of employing more people than any other industry directly and indirectly.
Evidence-based medicine and protocol-based care are enhancing the health outcomes globally. At the same time, there are considerable changes taking place across the eco-system, especially in the areas of models of delivery, innovations in access mediums and consumer awareness and expectations. Despite these changes, making quality healthcare available to the patient, irrespective of their location, still remains a huge challenge. Indian doctors and nurses worldwide are known for their skill and innovation. However, the knowledge of the doctor and his eco-system needs to get delivered in a low-cost environment with nurses and paramedics at the front-end. This will be possible only when stakeholders from the related industries and players in the healthcare eco-system (healthcare service providers, wireless players, content providers, technology players and doctors) come forward and participate in creating a robust delivery framework.
Only then can we create a sustainable healthcare delivery framework that impacts a larger section of the society and not just restricted to the population in urban areas. This must be a global priority. The sector also faces many challenges: the three biggest challenges India faces in the healthcare sector are: the paucity of hospital beds (one for 1,050 people as against one for 250 people in the US); the lack of skilled human resources; and the rise in both infectious and non-communicable diseases.
Despite the economic downturn, healthcare in India is increasingly being recognized as being recession-proof and is well poised to emerge as the employment engine for India. Furthermore, we need better training for medical professionals of all cadres. Doctors, nurses, paramedics: healthcare can become the country's largest employer. The industry needs proper regulation to stimulate investments; there should be unhindered growth in this sector that could provide massive employment.
It is reassuring to know that the government has planned to allocate 2.5% of the GDP on public health services by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan. At present, healthcare is 80% provided by the private sector. A change in ratio to 60:40 would result in massive healthcare spends, more job creation and benefit the construction and medical device industry. In addition, announcements about the preparation of a clear roadmap to merge all the government health schemes, the plan to set up a national commission on health resources and efforts to strengthen facilities at primary health centers and district hospitals will provide a much needed fillip to Indian healthcare. Similarly, technology will play a critical role in the future of healthcare delivery systems in the country. The time has come for the industry to be accorded infrastructure status in order to improve the sector's outcomes and platform of delivery access across different sections of the society.
Dr.Prathap C Reddy
Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group