Budget 2023-24 Expectation: Improve public health expenditure, increase focus on preventive care in Tier 2, 3 cities
Government-led genome sequencing programmes in partnership with some private players will help in disease management
Surajit Chakrabartty Last Updated:January 31, 2023 11:12:33 IST
Healthcare is one of India’s fastest-growing sectors, both in terms of revenue and employment. Over the last few years, the availability and range of services have increased manifold, as a result of increased public and private involvement. Consequently, the focus on providing quality and affordable healthcare within the country has also increased commensurately. With macroeconomic factors favouring investments in Indian healthcare, the government’s Heal in India vision, to make India the largest destination for medical tourism could soon become a reality.
The pandemic has driven a paradigm shift in how the country’s population views health and wellness. It has not only driven a huge uptick in individual health but also cast light upon the importance of robust health infrastructure in our country, especially given the size of our population. While we have come a long way in this regard, some key challenges remain.
Key areas of healthcare that need focus
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Some of the key areas of improvement include ensuring access to specialized healthcare, especially in Tier 2 & 3 cities, improving public health expenditure, increasing focus on preventive care and increasing focus on cutting-edge healthcare research.
Technological advancements, in recent years, have helped both clinicians and consumers to gain a better understanding of the diseases they are dealing with and have improved access to high-quality healthcare within the country. Digitisation has also helped in accelerating contactless healthcare delivery and faster decision-making. The traditional means of healthcare delivery are evolving with the goal of serving the end consumer while also building the overall healthcare ecosystem of the country.
India’s advantages in healthcare
India’s advantages as a healthcare investment destination lie in its large population, a talent pool of well-trained medical professionals and cost competitiveness, with respect to both healthcare services as well as medical research.
With Omics technologies gaining prominence, especially genomics, precision medicine has become a rapidly developing sector. Genomics plays a major role in healthcare screening and management. Embedding precision medicine principles at research, clinical, industry and regulatory levels; creating awareness, educating the general population, and making these tests affordable are some of the immediate areas of focus to develop the precision medicine sector. Precision medicine treatments can benefit patients by improving health outcomes and reducing overall healthcare costs.
Genome sequencing has come a long way after the first human genome was sequenced in 2003. Clinicians and patients are becoming more aware and looking at genetic tests for diagnosis and treatment of key inherited diseases including metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer among other conditions.
Predictive genomic testing is seen as the next major weapon in the arsenal of cutting-edge healthcare technology. Technology has also brought down sequencing costs significantly making these tests affordable for the larger population while increasing accuracy and expanding the reach.
With the ability to identify accurate preventive solutions to chart out treatment options for patients, these tests have successfully improved patient outcomes. Several large population-level sequencing projects have also been undertaken in the last decade.
COVID-19 genome sequencing gave insights into diseases
COVID-19 genome sequencing is an excellent example of how new genomic tools can provide better insights into diseases. The sector will continue to be driven by greater life expectancy, a shift in disease burden, changes in preferences, growing disposable income, favourable insurance policies, medical support, infrastructure development and policy support and incentives.
Over the last few years, the Government of India has been undertaking many initiatives to promote the Indian healthcare industry with the impetus of the National Health Mission, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, Pradhan Mantri-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission etc.
As we prepare for the post-pandemic era, we need more focus on early diagnosis, prevention, and targeted treatment. Increased investments in R&D and healthcare technology and building the right talent pool will give the much-needed impetus to the country’s emergency care response infrastructure.
Promote tie-ups between industry, academia
Collaboration between industry and academia with policies and regulations will promote the right investment and research opportunities in this field. Government-led genome sequencing programmes and population-wide genome sequencing initiatives in partnership with some of the private players will provide the right insights and help in better disease management. We look forward to the government taking steps in this direction.
The writer is Chief Financial Officer, MedGenome Labs-a genetic diagnostic company. He tweets @MedGenomeCFO. Views expressed are personal.