“Changing expectations and outlook of healthcare in the COVID world”

Healthcare in the Covid world: Improve access, raise awareness and foster partnerships. There is a divide between urban areas where most of healthcare is located and the rural areas there is hardly any healthcare – Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Health Enterprises

The pandemic Covid-19 as we all know has hit planet Earth really badly. Each day there are more people testing positive for Covid-19 and there are a large number of deaths everyday worldwide. It has changed both the structure and content of discussions around healthcare and diagnostics. This has increased the demand for healthcare facilities and workers, straining public health systems worldwide. At a recent interactive session Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Health Enterprises and Dr. Shravan Subramanyam, MD, India and Emerging Markets, Roche Diagnostics India, spoke about enhancing awareness during these uncertain times. 

According to Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, “There is also a divide in the digital world between the urban areas and rural areas, where in the urban world we have very good connections in the cities, in the metros whilst we have very poor connections in the rural areas. This of course is a big problem for us not only for delivering healthcare but also the problem for educational institutions because now since schools are closed it is all about e-learning and sometimes without connections it is very difficult for people in the rural areas to get the education they need. These are things which we as a society need to deal with to work and bridge the divide between the rural and the urban. We need to have a viable universal health scheme so that every individual in this country is someway connected with the health care.”

Though COVID may have resulted in an immediate revenue decline, there is an evident potential for growth in the diagnostics industry. From the forecasted increase in the global in-vitro diagnostics market (estimated to reach $80 billion by 2024), to the expected increase in healthcare spending by Govt. of India (3% of GDP by 2022), to foreign direct investment. India’s economy posted its steepest contraction of GDP at -23.9%, the worst in decades as the strict lockdowns stalled economic activity, reduced consumption, investment and resulted in job and income cuts.

Dr. Shravan Subramanyam feels that, “Being in a diagnostics company gives us an opportunity to touch upon different aspects of patient healthcare. Now people often call the diagnostics the gate-keeper for patient healthcare because we are in a place to understand whether it is from a screening standpoint where we are testing apparently healthy individuals to diagnostics when you are looking at a person who has potential symptoms, onwards to monitoring after a patient has been diagnosed and as they are being treated either through medical needs or surgical needs or otherwise, we are continuing to look at the outcome of the patient through the diagnostics lens.”

The pandemic has left almost 90% of India’s healthcare facilities facing financial challenges and 21% facilities facing an existential threat. It is a test of our ability to scale up to global technologies to help Indian healthcare manage the lives and livelihoods of 1.3 billion people. Accessibility has always been a challenge in India. This is due to inadequate healthcare investment, lack of awareness, rising cases of NCDs, fear of hospitals and no strong emphasis on preventive health care. India, therefore, needs to focus on ensuring adequate – ‘Awareness, Availability, Affordability, and Accessibility’ to diagnostic tests.

As we establish the ‘value of diagnostics’ it is important to understand that we need to rebuild India’s healthcare infrastructure. The way ahead will be a combination of digitization and automation across the diagnostic value chain. A clear strategy, collaborative approach by - hospitals, scientific bodies, diagnostics labs, manufacturers —facilitated by the government will create a stronger healthcare eco-system.



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COVID-19 rural and urban areas


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