Challenges in the Indian Healthcare sector and the prospects for the future
The healthcare sector is growing at the current pace in India due to its strengthening medical services, hospitals and medical equipment. Healthcare sector is one of the nation’s biggest industries, both concerning revenue generation and employment creation. We are a land full of opportunities and are one of the leading destinations for high-end and sophisticated diagnostic services provisioning to a higher proportion of the population.
Although we are witnessing rapid expansion of the healthcare system, the challenges of infrastructure, the shortage of qualified medical professionals, non-availability of resources and medical professionals have remained a huge problem. Our infrastructure challenge with the current bed-to-patient ratio remains a cause of concern. We have one bed for every 1,050 patients. This significant lack of availability of resources means that the ‘capacity creation’ needs to pull up the pace to even meet the needs of the nation’s current population.
While we faced down to this challenge through the creation of additional infrastructure, we need to also come to terms with the resultant obstacle. Mere buildings, capital expenditure and expansions are not critical determinants in the health delivery ecosystem. Human health resource, its appropriate utilisation and availability are equal, if not more significant, elements. Lack of qualified medical professionals and personnel is one of the critical challenges the Indian health care industry is facing.
India’s ratio of 0.7 doctors and 1.5 nurses per 1,000 people is disturbingly lower than the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global average of 2.5 doctors and nurses per 1,000 people. Estimates suggest that our country needs an additional 1.54 million doctors and over 2.4 million nurses today to approximate the global average. (Source: WHO)
Over the years, India has become one of the affordable destinations for people looking for the best medical care. Hence, there is a dire need for skill development initiatives in the healthcare sector both qualitatively and quantitatively. We need to focus massively on upgrading the technical skills of the workforce for advanced healthcare service requirements. The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has estimated that incremental human resource requirement in India’s healthcare sector will almost double by 2022. (Source: NSDC)
Other than the challenges of the sector, the nature of health issues faced by Indians is growing diverse and is ever-changing. There is a mismatch between skill availability needs and the health issues that need to be treated, which have to be appropriately addressed. Vigorous training and up-skilling are a desperate necessity. Furthermore, career planning for the existing workforce at all levels needs to be re-envisioned. Without adequate professional growth and economic imperatives, the health care system in the country will continue to see the stumbling blocks. Developing human health resources for India would need effective coherence of resource planning, course development, skilling, training, employment and compensations. A systematised approach towards addressing this challenge would help solve this availability gap.
While these and other challenges remain, expanding the health workforce offers immense benefits for the country as a whole. It is estimated that by 2035, 40 million health sector jobs will be added globally. Therefore, healthcare, can and must, act as a force multiplier for the employment generation for our country.