Healthcare sector in India has been on a growth path in the last few years and it will continue to see expansion at a rapid level in the next few years as well. The sector was valued at around $74 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach around $280 billion by 2020 with a growth rate of around 16 per cent. The sector has evolved tremendously over the last few years with the advent of new technology that has caused major shifts in every aspect of healthcare from research and surgical procedures to post-operative care and medications.
India's economic development has meant that our healthcare infrastructure has improved to the extent that we have been able to eradicate some major diseases like smallpox, leprosy, polio etc; in fact, our healthcare systems are now considered one of the best in the world so much so that medical tourism is consistently rising in the country. Technology has ensured that there are significant advancements in every aspect. Booking a doctor's appointment, at home diagnostic services, less invasive surgeries, online pharmacies are some of the most significant ways in which technology has changed our health care experience.
While we have been able to take significant strides in improving our mortality rates and reducing the incidence of communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases or lifestyle diseases have been on a constant rise. India has become the world capital in diabetes and coronary diseases with a significant portion of our population facing heart attacks before the age of 50. The silver lining to this cloud is that Indians have also become more health conscious over the last few years, while this trend is currently restricted to urban population; more and more people are consuming preventive healthcare services. The whole gamut of aspects that make preventive healthcare including health foods, fitness, and diagnostic services are gaining popularity and becoming an essential aspect of life.
Another aspect that has come under the spotlight gradually in recent years is mental health. It is estimated that almost 7 per cent of the population already suffers some form of mental illness and this number is expected to rise in the coming years. Mental health and mental illnesses have been a taboo subject in India for a long while, however, in recent times these issues have gained some acknowledgement and attention, in fact, President Ram Nath Kovind warned of a potential "mental health epidemic" in his speech at NIMHANS convocation in December 2017. This sort of acknowledgement from the highest authorities in the public domain is heartening to see and legislation like the Mental Health Act 2017 is a positive step in empowering and helping individuals suffering from mental illnesses.
Expectations from 2020
Currently, the public health expenditure is somewhere around 1.5% of the GDP which is significantly less than the global average of 6 per cent, the most demanded and awaited reform for healthcare sector has been expecting an increase in this expenditure to at least 2 per cent in the coming years. Ayushman Bharat or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana is one of the most significant steps taken in the direction of healthcare by the central government and it would be great to see its expansion to include more families in need of health care.
Technology will continue to make a huge impact in the world of healthcare. In the last few years, health tech aimed at urban, educated population has seen an explosion from fitness apps to telemedicine, and this trend will continue. Artificial intelligence is gaining a lot of attention in a lot of areas; however, its application in healthcare has a significant impact on all three areas of diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. Diagnostic and treatment recommendations, biosensors to monitor and track BP, heart rate, sleep patterns etc some of the areas where AI is making inroads.
At home healthcare is another aspect that will see considerable growth. Technology will play a big role in delivering cost effective, post surgical care. In a country like ours where a burgeoning population is causing a burden on our healthcare facilities, stay at home care for patients might be a godsend.
Preventive healthcare will be one of the major drivers of the healthcare industry in the coming year, as awareness related to lifestyle diseases and their prevention increases and people adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach to their health. Diagnostics will gain more prominence as self initiated testing will gain popularity and people will take it upon themselves to track and monitor their health.