Innovation gets triggered differently in different sectors. Global vs. national or private vs. public priorities uniquely trigger healthcare innovations. Yet, there are known commonalities and mutual interests in different sectors, which when aligned through policies and prioritizations can literally move mountains. The recent Indian healthcare policy changes promote innovation in a big way. These changes not only align the research priorities and manufacturing innovations of the private sector with our national interests but also with that of some of the key economies and regions of the world.
The global healthcare innovation priorities include improving measurable healthcare outcomes through innovative offerings, delivery, finance, and processes, assigning a big role to “sustainable” digital innovation in achieving them. Innovation in the private sector is driven by changing customer needs, healthcare technology, operating environment, or shifting competitive landscape. Globally, public healthcare delivery challenges are more chronic and mostly related to resource limitations and demand innovations that may resolve some of them. Ironically, well-funded public healthcare delivery may also lead to sudden increase in utilization, often stressing out the system.
The remarkable success of our National COVID-19 vaccination mission may finally provide us some direction. Here, the swift policy changes and guidance from the government excellently harmonized with Industry capability and dutiful delivery in the national interest led to expedited development of vaccines and to over two billion vaccinations in a matter of few months. This is indeed a great example of government actions triggering the alignment of private capabilities and the public need and possibly setting the tone for many healthcare success stories across the globe.
Indian Innovations Triggered by Social Concerns will help build a greener planet
Healthcare innovations that are driven by social concerns address the root of healthcare inequality. India is plagued by many health challenges which can be largely mitigated not through treatments alone but by addressing some of the causative social behaviors. Thankfully our policymakers understand this and the emerging outcomes of the mega-project Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are exemplary. The Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 grand challenge for the start-ups gave us interesting innovations like self-cleaning IP Toilets and Odorless urinals. The PM-Poshan Abhiyaan inspired and supported many of our nutrition start-ups focusing on alternative and healthier nutrition sources, and helping people make smarter and more sustainable food choices. This social focus is also evident in the way our public health bodies and the start-ups funded by them are focusing on infectious diseases like tuberculosis (Omega TB), malaria (Marut Drones), or HIV (mAID PPTCT). Many of our FemTech start-ups may focus on the urban, empowered women, but there are also ones that focus on the hinterlands, raising awareness and removing taboos around the topic of menstruation, while also developing affordable and sustainable female hygiene products. This will get a further boost from the recently launched Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS).
The changing world leaning on sustainable growth will benefit from many of these innovations. Our innovators must therefore take this success forward and show the rest of the world how the Indian approach to solving health and hygiene problems may also be the right thing for the west to adopt towards a greener future.
The Pharmaceutical industry is duty-bound toward solving the issue of resource limitation
In the old days, a “good King” provided for his sick subjects. Post-Independence, this dependence on state machinery often proved counterproductive. Even some successes of completely state-driven healthcare projects were unsustainable and therefore short-lived. In the modern Indian republic, this dependence needs to change to citizens’ duty. The pharmaceutical industry is also duty-bound to tackle the challenges our country faces in terms of resources. The industry must bring more value to the table for out-of-pocket healthcare spending, which is 90% of our total healthcare spending, letting the government continue creating better regulatory frameworks and manufacturing practices, helping the industry become the world’s pharmacy. The industry may focus on outcome-based pricing and improving the purchase experience through digital technologies enabling efficiency gains and enhanced accountability and transparency. The industry must get proactively involved in supporting or driving the healthcare fin-tech sector to improve the quality of care, provide financial protection, and access to health services. Healthcare fin-tech is here to stay, with early success stories from P2P healthcare loans or crowdfunding platforms (Milaap, Ketto, Impact Guru), healthcare loan providers to the traditionally “unbankable” section, or healthcare service delivery platforms. Beyond the already popular online pharmacies and cloud clinics, we now also have alternative innovations like TABLT, Saveo, or Biddano solving the access puzzle for the less privileged from more remote areas. The government has played its part efficiently by co-developing and investing in developing the necessary frameworks and digital infrastructure (Universal IDs and Universal Payments) and developing guidance and recommendations on developing and using digital technologies supporting universal health coverage.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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