Science and technology research in India is being very well supported by organizations like, India Alliance, a Department of Biotechnology (GOI) and Wellcome Trust partnership, and over the last decade allowing researchers to bring forth technological innovations that have had a significant impact in solving the myriad of healthcare problems in India.
Public Health funding and initiatives by organizations like Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have also been helpful in alleviating and eradicating diseases such as Polio and supporting various public health initiatives including malnutrition and prenatal care.
All in all, despite a growing population and healthcare burden mostly due to environmental factors (stress, weather, occupation, lifestyle etc.), the Indian healthcare system has been developing furiously to combat these challenges head-on.
If one looks at the numbers closely, as of June 2019, a number of sub-centres reached 168,418 and number of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) increased to 33,476. We have 1.6 million beds set up in India. The new healthcare policy released by the Government mandates a minimum of 2 beds per 1000, and according to WHO standards, a minimum of 3 beds per 1000 is required. But India aspires at least to achieve 2 beds per 1000, which translates 2.623 million beds over the course of next decade, and this includes both replacement and new beds. This is a huge undertaking by the Government to bring healthcare and make it accessible to the masses.
That brings out the need for innovation in Healthcare in the country. The key areas we need to focus on are affordability, accessibility, new technologies and approaches and quality standardization. The latter three being the most important
Affordability has been one of the major pillars of all healthcare products and services currently offered by almost all healthcare providers. Whether it is cheap diagnostic tests carried out at the comfort of your own home, or eyecare systems like Aravind and LVPEI that have allowed the poorest of poor to get treated, the areas where more work needs to be done from an innovation point of view is the development of new technologies and methodologies. The need is to drive accessibility that comes from pricing and positioning a highly innovative product or service, that it benefits the masses and not just the corporates or metro city dwellers.
Development of new technologies and approaches, or innovation to solve some of the most challenging healthcare problems requires vision and a lot of patience. Unfortunately, the only area where we have lacked collectively is our ability to think big and out of the box to innovate exponentially and not incrementally.
However, the new crop of highly innovative Indian healthcare startups funded by domestic and foreign VCs are doing some phenomenal work. Whether its Forus Health using technology to treat blindness, to Niramai for early breast cancer screening or Mitra Biotech developing a low cost personalized cancer care, and drugs, these companies are leading the way to show to the world that highly innovative technologies can be developed.
We need more of these inventions and stories as not only will these define the future of healthcare in India but I truly hope many of these inventions will be adopted by the West, at large.
India as a country, led by a growing and a highly driven young population, is growing confidence in its abilities. The same is evident by many returning to the homeland to set up ventures; corporate employees leaving their high paying jobs; IITians turning down a job offer to start companies abroad. My hope will be that many of them stay patient, dream big and innovate. Innovation brings value, impact and showcases to the world our capabilities to move higher up in the value chain.
Having said all that, I am very optimistic that Indians will realize the importance of technology innovation for impact and value creation to drive inventions and build game-changing companies in the coming decade. Stay tuned