Health-Tech In Current Times Will India Make Huge Strides In Digital Healthcare Solutions?
Healthcare has long been a dynamic landscape for India. India today has an active healthcare startup ecosystem. The large and medium sized industrial houses have ventured in to fill the demand gap in the commercial healthcare sector. We see med tech devices companies and companies pursuing AI / ML, automation and analytics to eliminate waste and improve the quality of care, clinical outcomes, and physician and patient experience, attract active investment. This movement in the domestic healthcare industry points to the huge scope of technological advancements and economic growth for the future of Indian healthcare.
India has traditionally had a formal healthcare platform for centuries, although it was not recognized by the science of western medicine due to the lack of written record of interventions and their outcomes. While it may be evidently clear to some that Ayurveda or any of the traditional systems of medicine works, but like all medicine, one's mileage may vary by innumerable conditions. India's native systems of medicine include Ayurveda and Siddha in conjunction with Yoga as the central backbone of Ancient Indian healthcare. India adopted the Unani and Homeopathic systems as its own in later years. Indians can boast about the first surgery under Sushruta dating as far back as 600 BCE.
India has traditionally had a formal healthcare platform for centuries, although it was not recognized by the science of western medicine due to the lack of written record of interventions and their outcomes
Today the story is very different. After independence from the British, India's population growth vastly outpaced it's economic growth. India's ability to meet the civic needs of its citizens went unmet nearly for the first 50 years after independence. Indians who went outside the country to fruitfully employ their skills came back with visions and bright ideas of what India needed and what it meant for entrepreneurship. In that process India began to realize the vast power of a capitalistic market as a way to fulfill civic needs. India found a niche for itself by building a strong educational system and becoming the knowledge hub for the world. India's climb up the knowledge ladder and being recognized for it by the world has created a huge domestic opportunity. It has created vibrant businesses and has poised India to be in the top 20 economies of the world. The opportunity to provide services to some roughly 1.3 billion people has also improved the prospects for improved civic services for the nation. Digital health has opened up opportunities to incorporate traditional medicine with conventional medicine in what is being called integrated medicine.
However, India has a long way to go, especially in the healthcare sector. Statistically speaking, the doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the WHO recommended ratio of 1:1000. The life expectancy is around 69 years. Maternal Mortality Rate is at 113 per 100,000 live births (2018), still a far cry from the goal of 70 to be achieved by 2030 as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. There is approximately 1 government hospital bed for every 2,000 people. Nearly 70% of the hospital beds are concentrated in the top 20 most populous cities which is still only home to roughly 1/6th of India's population.
The growing influence of India's technology, the awareness and opportunity in India's economic growth, and the availability of funds has created a large startup ecosystem in India. The huge healthcare disparity has given rise to a booming healthcare startup ecosystem. India's regulatory and policy framework have been struggling to keep up with technology and its advances in healthcare. The government is working overtime to enable the healthcare industry to create and deliver value while ensuring that quality of care, patient safety, data rights, privacy and compliance are not trampled upon in the push to create economic value. The Indian healthcare startup ecosystem is subverting the traditional notion of how healthcare should be delivered.
India has a thriving med tech, clinical decision support, lab diagnostic and imaging, telemedicine, online pharmacies and a whole host of digital health companies. This is aided by talent that comes from companies that build products and services for global clients, bringing along with them the best of breed ideas and solutions. These digital health companies are either building solutions that fit the local market, which they are then taking to global markets, or, are adapting solutions that they have seen and experienced in other markets to the Indian consumer. The government is working hard to keep pace with the need for regulation and compliance while enabling market driven opportunities. All this bodes well for the digital health industry.