Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi renewed his commitment to making Indian healthcare world-class. In a series of messages on Twitter, PM Modi celebrated World Health Day: “The Government of India is working tirelessly to augment India’s health infrastructure. The focus is on ensuring good quality and affordable healthcare to our citizens. It makes every Indian proud that our nation is home to the world’s largest healthcare scheme, Ayushman Bharat […] Our focus on affordable healthcare has ensured significant savings for the poor and middle class. At the same time we are strengthening our Ayush network to further boost overall wellness.”
The PM is referring to Ayushman Bharat, a public health insurance fund program supported by the Indian government to provide healthcare to millions of people who cannot otherwise afford it. The concept is robust, entailing the creation of 150,000 government supported “health and wellness centers” that feature a wide variety of healthcare services, including maternal health, immunization services, telemedicine capabilities, yoga and holistic wellness treatments, health awareness education, and medication dispensaries . The mission behind the initiative is to provide Indians a wide-reaching safety net for both essential services and general preventative care. Undoubtedly, running this system will cost the government billions of dollars; however, the majority of analysts believe this to be a worthwhile investment for the country.
Indeed, Indian healthcare has some of the best outcomes in the world while money spent per patient is relatively conservative. A report published by the Harvard School of Public Health found that India spends approximately $40 per person annually on healthcare while the United States spends approximately $8,500. A common thought-fallacy in healthcare is conflating money spent with results: it is assumed that the higher the spend, the better the outcomes. However, Indian healthcare outcomes have been found to be comparable, if not better than its contemporaries, though its spend per patient was less. In fact, this fallacy regarding spending on healthcare has been proven time and again: The Commonwealth Fund highlights that “The US spends more on health care as a share of the economy — nearly twice as much as the average OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] country — yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 nations.”
India has continued to be a global beacon with regards to healthcare.
Historically speaking, India has always been the world’s epicenter for pharmaceuticals. I’ve previously written about how the country has a prolific pharmaceutical industry which is responsible for producing the majority of the world’s vaccines and medications. Furthermore, Indian drug research and development and production infrastructure is second to none, making it a highly sought after investment market for global life-science companies.
In recent years, India has significantly boosted its public health efforts as well. PM Modi was globally praised for his swift and decisive actions during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which time he mobilized key government infrastructure and healthcare talent to enact the appropriate measures and means to curtail the spread of infection as much as possible. Furthermore, India was one of the first countries with a robust vaccination campaign against Covid-19, and was also one of the first to share its vaccines with other countries. Indeed, this initiative will be etched into history books for decades to come.
Finally, Indian innovation in the healthcare sector is undoubtedly at its prime. For example, the Indian telehealth market is estimated to have an astounding CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of nearly 36.9%, indicating the sheer interest and investment in this sector. The reality is that India has a significant physician shortage—a problem which Prime Minister Modi has recently tried to address with the inauguration of new, state-of-the-art medical schools nationwide, many of which are atleast partially funded by the government. However, the Indian government is simultaneously investing in telemedicine services to help alleviate some of the dire shortages that rural areas in the country are facing. Renowned healthcare organizations such as Apollo and stalwart companies such as daddy are leading the charge on this front, setting an example for other industry titans to follow.
Certainly, India has come a long way over the last decade with regards to its healthcare system. As it continuously strives to provide its people with world-class infrastructure and services, the Indian healthcare system will certainly be one to watch and learn from in decades to come.