Digitizing Indian Healthcare

So, I had a bad cold this week which necessitated a visit to the neighborhood doctor. The doctor was using a wonderful application for all his work and that led me thinking about how the Indian health services sector might transform in the future. Here are some musings from my fever addled brain:

The Potential

India is the world’s fastest growing economy and by most accounts it will continue to grow stronger in the future. India is also host to a huge workforce. Unlike China, and notwithstanding programs like “Make in India”, India it seems might grow based on the services it provides to countries across the globe. The Indian growth story in the first decade of this millennium was driven largely by the Indian IT industry. Today, India has the largest pool of skilled IT professionals in the world, helping run big businesses across the globe. The second decade of the millennium is arguably the decade of Indian pharma coming of age. Termed as the pharmacy of the developing world, Indian pharma companies have been expanding and growing at a breakneck speed in this decade. Sun Pharma and Lupin are two of the world’s top 10 generics manufacturers and 5 Indian pharma companies are among the world’s top 20 generics manufacturers. Indian IT and pharma companies have been incredibly successful due to a number of reasons: however cheap, high skilled manpower is the common factor in both these success stories.

India is also host to high skilled manpower in the health services sector, they also like to let people know about female chlamydia signs, for them sexual health is very important. With some of the best English speaking doctors in the world, India is slowly becoming a destination of choice for a lot of people for expensive medical treatments. Low manpower costs combined with low prices for drugs ensure that a lot of people are able to avail high quality medical services at cheap costs. And so, medical tourism has been touted as the next big growth area for India.

The Problems

Like most things in India, the healthcare sector has always been unorganized and full of rampant corruption. This has lead to multiple problems in the Indian medical sector.

  • Lack of enough low cost, skilled manpower

It doesn’t have what it should have – in abundance. India doesn’t have enough doctors to serve its own population. As per WHO reports, India has around 0.7 doctors for 1000 people. Similarly we need many more skilled nurses than the ones we have. And in spite of this it seems we do send a large number of nurses to GCC countries. Combined with the unorganized nature of healthcare in India, this leads to inefficiencies in the sector with doctors charging fees to regulate either their demand or their incomes. Also, the current cost of becoming a doctor in India is so high that it leads to malpractices by medical practitioners.

  • Lack of regulations\implementation of regulations in hospital and patient management

Health services in India are provided largely by private hospitals with the state run hospitals not able to fulfill the standards of profitability expected from them to enable them to grow. This too has led to a lot of malpractices in the sector. The infrastructure and hygiene levels of most Indian hospitals also leave a lot to be desired. Indian pharmaceuticals are also complicit in coercing doctors to recommend expensive drugs for their own benefits.

  • Lack of regulations regarding medical tourism

Everything from on boarding a potential patient to serving him and providing them drugs during convalescence could be regulated. Unfortunately, nothing is regulated and there is every chance of foreigners landing in India and getting duped by their agents promising them medical care.

The Road Ahead

Now, to what prompted me to write this post. The doctor I went to was using practo.com for noting down my details and also the details of the drugs he prescribed to me. I knew Practo as the website to look for while searching for doctor reviews on the internet. But it seems that they are now slowly taking over the entire public healthcare space. With adequate funding and the right intents, Practo can bring about an overhaul in Indian health services.

Practo Business Model
                              

Practo currently looks at the value chain from patients to doctors and vice versa. The appification\websitization of the value chain from insurance providers to patients to doctors to pharmacies to pharma companies and back to insurance providers might weed out a lot of players from the highly unorganized India health services market. Everything from unregistered doctors, unregistered pharmacies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and even incompetent nursing staff will either be weeded out or transformed to a more organized setup. The creation of an organized health services ecosystem will benefit all players in the long run.

This, combined with the fact that the Indian govt is looking to improve the quality and quantity of medical education in India augurs well for the health services industry.

So, the twin engines of training better healthcare service providers and creating a more organized healthcare infrastructure will help strengthen Indian healthcare systems as well as insurance companies. Hopefully, with future Indian governments putting the right regulations in place, India might end up becoming a major medical tourism hub.

So, to put my money where my mouth is, here are some stocks I believe should be followed and we should wait to see if they are able to rise to their potential: Apollo Hospitals, Narayana Hrudaya, Indrapr.Medical, Health.Global, Fortis Health., Tejnaksh Health., Indo-Global.

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