For innovation in diagnostics, budget should focus on Design for India
sector in India has been on a rapid growth spectrum in the last decade. We have created more technical jobs, prevented brain drain to a certain extent, and most importantly brought in quality healthcare, at par with global services.
The 2016-17 union budget
was a promising one for the public from a healthcare
perspective. We saw increase in pharmacies providing subsidised medicines and a promise of higher insurance covers for the low-income families. But many of the goals yet remain unachieved or unimplemented, pressing matters remain unattended, and this year’s budget
should definitely do better than the previous one and see its agenda through. The government should look from being a facilitator of health than be a provider.
- A budget that can lay the framework for the followings:
- An overarching vision for healthcare
- Roadmap for Indian health system
- Overhauling the primary healthcare system that will reflect well on IMR and MMR
- Focus and awareness programs on preventive healthcare and early disease management to reduce cost burden
- Public private partnerships (PPP)
- Effective implementation at an enormous scale
Allocations for regulation
Mindful of the fact that diagnostics is the first step towards effective treatment, it is important that all our national health programmes recognise the importance of quality diagnostics. In order to ensure that quality diagnostics reach people through programme verticals; budgetary allocations to diagnostics is much needed. It’s time that the government realises that the sector comprises largely of unregulated players. Anybody can open a laboratory today and start giving out reports and there is nobody to check if our citizens are getting the diagnosis they deserve. Today, accreditation is not mandatory and hence the onus of accuracy, quality or reliability of a test reports lies with a lab. Make allocations for such regulation in the budget.
Empower national bodies like NABL to play a bigger role in regulating the most basic function of healthcare.
Tax relaxations and subsidies
The support from government in the form of tax relaxations and subsidies is rather limited. We do have the tax exemption for preventive diagnostic
tests below Rs 5000, which would have a positive impact on the demand side of the diagnostic
market. However many more interventions are needed on the supply side so as to reduce the costs of delivering diagnostic
tests. Currently, the taxation levied on necessary chemicals and technology increase the test costs, thereby making it inaccessible to most people. If the costs for life saving diagnostic
tests have to be brought down and its benefits are to trickle down to the common man, reduction on taxation of lab chemicals
would have a much more visible effect.
Public private partnerships
Government should also look at collaborating with private players to take quality diagnostics to towns and rural areas. Sufficient incentives and subsidies should be given to be able to sustain a presence in these areas, while offering the best of services.
Facilitate innovations, Design for India
There is so much talk around Make in India but our focus should be ‘Design for India’. Today 90 percent of research & development and innovations in healthcare are done in western markets, which need to be bought and adapted for the Indian consumer. Every technology that we import is meant for the western population and solves problems typically faced in their markets.
The need of the hour is indigenous solutions created in India for problems faced by healthcare
consumers in emerging markets. We need to ‘Design for India’ in the country and actually manufacture anywhere. Budget
allocations that can boost such healthcare
innovations can truly shape the future of the Indian healthcare
The past few years have also seen a steady growth in the number of lifestyle and chronic diseases. The younger generation of the workforce is not as healthy as they should be. If not checked right now, the problems may escalate into worrisome statistics. The Government and the budget
should hence also focus on preventive healthcare
strategies. Technology again can become a huge enabler in collating data in order to implement evidence-based strategies and treatments.
necessities of the rural and senior people were the critical pillars of the union budget
2016. I am hopeful the union budget
2017 will provide a thrust to the objective of the growing overall healthcare
infrastructure in India and improving healthcare
access for all.