Bhavdeep Singh , CEO , Fortis Healthcare Limited
Although healthcare sector in India is growing at a rapid pace, we are currently far behind many developed nations in the public health space, with nutrition, access to quality healthcare, clean air, drinking water, sanitation facilities being long-standing challenges. This year, in the budget, government has increased our healthcare budget to 2.5 percent of the GDP; however, his figure is still lower than what many other nations have allocated. The Indian healthcare system can be described as mixed type with public and private health systems co-existing smoothly together. However quality healthcare services are still expensive for the common man. Health insurance covers very little of our population even today although in many countries, it is mandatory. Almost 70 percent of our population pays on its own for medical expenses so in the next few years, the health insurance sector is slated to grow rapidly with support from the government as well as private players so that more Indians can have accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare services.
On vision for health and family welfare
The healthcare sector in India has underwent a paradigm shift in the last few years. Earlier, the focus was more on infectious and communicable diseases. Healthcare was primarily citizen- funded, with health centers and government facilities providing most services. But today, with changing diets, longer work-shifts and lifestyles, we are faced with a double burden of diseases with increasing numbers of patients with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and hypertension, all of which need longer, sustained care, and treatment.
However, access to medical care remains a challenge with the availability of only one hospital bed per 1050 patients and shortage of qualified staff. These gaps must be bridged with the addition of at-least a hundred thousand hospital beds over the next decade. In addition, advanced medical technology, modern diagnostic, therapeutic equipment and growing clinical skills of doctors can revolutionize the way healthcare is being delivered today.
The demand for personalized patient attention has encouraged second opinions, customized care-plans, and doctor-patient interaction and connectivity. Patients today want to know their options, receive excellent service – both medical and non-medical, stay updated and understand how they’re improving. To realize these objectives, it is important for us as an industry to focus on patient-centric services and also work with the government to foster greater public-private partnerships on healthcare.
On expansion plans over the next couple of years
We have some decisive goals for our hospitals in the next couple of years and the key is patient-centric care. Our internal positioning is patient-focused above everything and fostering clinical excellence to enable patient centricity. Our teams are making every effort to provide the best possible care to each and every patient. At the same time, we are faced with challenges as well as opportunities in the business, deeply linked to being a patient driven service provider and integrating new technology into healthcare.
The maternal and child care business can move us ahead by leaps and bounds. To boost business, we are looking at the use of technology initiatives such as robotics surgery as well as venturing into e-healthcare. Bringing technology into healthcare has brought health information at one’s fingertips through smartphones. At the hospital, we are using technology to support complex surgeries to support specialties such as oncology, gynecology, and in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. While the industry has already welcomed the use of advanced technology, going forward, we are looking ahead to its influence on business models, operational mechanism, staff needs, and even cyber-security issues.
On mandate of the Department of Health and Family Welfare and challenges faced while implementing health services
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare frames all policies related to health in India and runs several programs on public health across the country. We have a dynamic Health Minister, J P Nadda who has shown drive and enthusiasm as the country strives to achieve its healthcare agenda in the coming years. The new National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 will help to address the existing and emerging challenges that India faces today. One of the most important aspects of the NHP is the focus on wellness in addition to the impending disease burden of NCDs.
We have always been supportive of the government’s initiatives. Effective leveraging of private sector capability, particularly its quality and efficiency orientation, is critical to the achievement of the government’s health goals. We are active participants in the deliberations of the Niti Aayog to finalize the operational framework that enables effective implementation of public private partnership initiatives. A robust PPP framework will enable the private sector to participate in the government’s agenda to increase healthcare service outreach.
For Fortis Healthcare, the touchstones remain patient-centricity and an integrated, quality healthcare service delivery. Our mission is to be a globally respected health care organization known for clinical excellence, and distinctive patient care. In this endeavor, we certainly look forward to supporting the government’s initiative to make quality healthcare services accessible to as many people in India as possible. We are already operating three PPP models - one in Raipur since the last 14 years, one in Vashi, Mumbai for the last 10 years and one in Dehradun, which has been operational for the last 5 years. Collaborative PPP initiatives, therefore, have the potential for setting higher benchmarks for quality health services and improved health outcomes for the populations served.
On areas requiring government investment
The Indian healthcare sector is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.9 percent during 2015-20 to USD 280 billion. Rising income level, greater health awareness, increased precedence of lifestyle diseases, and improved access to insurance would be the key contributors to growth. The private sector has emerged as a vibrant force in India's healthcare industry, lending it both national and international repute. It accounts for almost 74 percent of the country’s total healthcare expenditure.
Further, presence of world-class hospitals and skilled medical professionals has strengthened India’s position as a preferred destination for medical tourism. Presently, the Government of India aims to develop India as a global healthcare hub. It has created the National Health Mission (NHM) for providing effective healthcare to both the urban and rural population. There are no easy solutions and an integrated approach to healthcare will becomes necessary. This will involve reducing the burden of disease through aggressive public health programs focused on improving health awareness and healthy lifestyles, improving cleanliness and hygiene, mass immunization efforts to eradicate communicable diseases, building a robust system of Primary health so that diseases can be detected, treated and contained in their infancy and at much less cost.
Since there is a virtual absence of social security platforms in our country, health insurance must be boosted. We need to have a significant population covered so the risk of ill health can be mitigated without incurring undue personal cost. Fresh manpower will be needed by way of trained doctors, nurses, paramedics and healthcare administrators.
Augmenting capacity by creating world class medical colleges and training institutions will thus help to bridge this shortage. Investment in these institutions must therefore be channeled. Throwing the gauntlet open and making it feasible for private enterprise to participate in sectoral skill development efforts would certainly go a long way in catalyzing this process.
On the accusation of meddling with pricing policy
With increasing cases of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and hypertension, the need for quality coronary stents is rising in India. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has made a major announcement via a notification issued on February 13, 2017 to fix the ceiling price of stents used in coronary treatments in India. While we welcome this decision, a rational differentiation could have been considered in the pricing of drug eluting stents, to distinguish innovation and advanced technology in stent manufacturing and placement during coronary interventions.
For Fortis Healthcare, our patients always come first. Our motto is patient-centricity and we welcome this decision by the Government of India. This will ensure transparency, control indiscriminate pricing and make stents affordable for those who need them, across India. As a patient-centric healthcare service provider, Fortis Healthcare will abide by the government’s decision.
We recognize the fact that this decision is in public interest, of all those who have to undergo coronary angioplasty and percutaneous interventions. As required under the notification, all Fortis hospitals will adhere to the provisions specified. However, we request the government to grant us a transitory period to implement this effectively.