By Saurabh Kochhar
The pandemic has pivoted the focus on stitching the fabric of the Indian healthcare industry that holds the responsibility of providing a safety cover to a population of 1.3 billion. The country’s healthcare has always remained people-centric however, most of its work goes unnoticed or remains unknown, owing to the unorganised, fragmented nature. Lately, as dictated by global trends, the treatment of non-communicable diseases remains a major cause of concern. It is largely dependent on outpatient departments (OPDs). The medical care here is not homogeneous, it’s unexpected and unpredictable. This is why the need for value-based care at OPDs is rising and hence, evaluating the important factors behind it is imperative for improving patient care, upgrading healthcare outcomes and reducing medical costs.
The increasing burden of non-communicable diseases
India is witnessing growth in various economic and social fronts. The developments have led to behavioural and lifestyle changes mainly in the young working population. The transition from traditional meals to processed foods, high in fat, salt and sugar, poor work-life balance, lack of proper sleep and physical activity, and a sedentary lifestyle have increased the risks of non-communicable diseases. For instance, today, there is an increase in the consumption of alcohol or tobacco among women, increasing the burden of diseases like COPDs, diabetes, cancer, and many others.
It is also notable that for a low and middle-income country like India, the healthcare infrastructure has to face a triple whammy of health challenges such as communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases and even road accidents that have to be addressed. Inequity in access to quality healthcare, rising costs of inpatient and life-saving surgical care, micro economic challenges and gaps in care quality are burdening the entire ecosystem.
As per the estimates of the World Health Organisation, the non-communicable diseases account for 80 percent of the global burden of diseases. The figures suggest that almost half of all deaths in Asia are now attributable to NCDs, accounting for 47% of the global burden of disease. These non-communicable diseases are a grave cause of concern for a developing country like India. This has had a significant impact on economic growth and well-being of the population and thus requires attention.
Rising health awareness, income levels, ageing population and market disruptions
Ever since the pandemic, Regular disruptions have been happening in the healthcare sector. The existing players in the market today are foraying into adjacent businesses and digital players are entering the existing segments. The market is booming and the major reasons behind this include rising income levels, needs of the ageing population, increasing health awareness and government’s focus on providing universal health cover. Catapulted by these factors, the healthcare market size is expected to reach $372 billion in 2022. Even regulatory authorities now believe that this is a wakeup call to overhaul the laws related to drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is seeking to introduce a separate regulator for the healthcare market.
Low insurance penetration
At present, the primary healthcare industry is valued at $13 bn. The share of the organized sector is practically negligible in this case. Also, India currently has 70k Ayushman Bharat centers which are providing primary health care services to communities closer to their homes. Currently, the OPD market which is extremely critical as it is the first to address primary health needs is fragmented. This makes it difficult for insurance companies to introduce products in this segment. Moreover, lack of data is another for the same. The insurance penetration is also low because most insurance products are based on inpatient care or treatment.
Why is a transformation in value-based care crucial at this point?
Switching to value-based care in OPDs is supplemented by factors such as standardizing overall healthcare practices by adopting digitalisation, technology and best practices. This can improve the overall outcome of primary healthcare, ease the burden and bring operational uniformity for better processes. For instance, one of the biggest benefits of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is maintaining continuity of care which is at the base of value-based care.
The EMR of patients can eliminate hassles such as repetitive and unnecessary tests and medical procedures. Moreover, they can help track medical history and lifestyle habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption, workout routines, diet plans, sleep patterns, etc. to quickly determine their medical needs. The organised nature and data can lead to better coordination and exchange of information. Medical professionals can communicate with each other to know more about patients and offer a personalized approach with better efficiency and in less time and effort. Also, a value-based primary healthcare or organised OPDs will support to decide and define the right and appropriate level of intervention.
India is set to become the most populated country in the world. This calls for an acceleration in the effort of developing a value-based, robust primary health care. A long-term commitment to value-based care for OPDs can bring down costs for patients and most importantly, improve the overall healthcare ecosystem with standardisation.
(The author is the Founder & CEO of Meddo Health. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)