Heal by India’ is a great theme conceived by the Government to create India as the ‘healthcare’ provider for the world. India has been a thought leader in various subjects including science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and indeed the spiritual domain since time immemorial.
Many thinkers, scientists, writers, and philosophers have contributed immensely in their respective disciplines and often proved to be much ahead of their times. During the period of colonial rule and a few decades after Independence, India’s intellectual prowess was perhaps ignored or forgotten by the world. Yet India remained a crucial source of manpower and resources. From 1991 onwards there was a steady rise in the recognition of Indians, especially in the context of information technology and the knowledge economy.
In the medical sector, India has been a well-known supplier of nurses and doctors to the west. We are also one the largest pharmaceutical supplier
In the medical sector, India has been a well-known supplier of nurses and doctors to the West. We are also one of the largest pharmaceutical suppliers. The Covid-19 pandemic made the world appreciate India’s status as the foremost vaccine supplier for the whole world. Hence this is an opportune time to build on our strengths and improve our status as the ‘healer’ for the whole world.
The ‘Heal by India’ theme has two aspects. One aspect is to attract foreigners to come to India for medical care, meaning health tourism. The other is to look at India as a supplier of healthcare technology, components, and manpower.
The former has been a focus area in the last decade and health tourism is indeed a sizeable industry by now and will continue to grow. In order to be a preferred supplier in Healthcare, there is a need for a major gear shift to create an enabling environment. First, the healthcare talent cannot be groomed only in the classroom. They need practical experience. The healthcare priorities and approaches of the developed world are different from India. We need world-class delivery and training infrastructure where the talent can be developed for the western world.
The Government medical colleges are best suited for serving the needs of the Indian population. The private medical education industry needs to be liberalized so that it becomes profitable for investors and attractive for students in terms of knowledge gained and return on investment. Today many interested candidates are going to Russia, the Philippines, China, Eastern European countries amongst many other destinations. In order to reverse the flow, the medical education systems need to be upgraded, overhauled, and made simpler and more economical.
Secondly, the Government needs to find a more pragmatic way of balancing the healthcare needs of the masses and the affording population. The bent towards populism by imposing price restrictions makes the industry unviable. One can look at the impact of price caps on stents or the recent example of Covid-19 testing. The center-state divide in healthcare policy makes it a rather unpredictable sector.
Thirdly, there is a greater need for a dialogue with all stakeholders. We often move from being unregulated to being overregulated. Examples include the surrogacy laws and the PCPNDT regulations amongst others. Unlike any other sector, healthcare exports may not require Government subsidies or incentives. It just needs simplifying regulations, removing hindrances, and creating an open, flexible, and responsive policy-making system. Only then will the private initiatives bring the capital, infrastructure, and manpower to seize the opportunity which is very apparent, urgent, and growing.
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