Healthcare in India: It's Time to Move to Patients' Homes
M3 India Newsdesk May 27, 2018
By 2050, the population of India will have grown from 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion. Hence, there are compelling reasons to believe that finally, it's time to push proactive healthcare services into Indian homes. The process has already started thanks to some key players, but the real question is, how does it impact the traditional healthcare system?
Healthcare services in India is still an unchartered territory, and the home healthcare market is still in its teething stage. But it's all set to disrupt the conventional medical setup thanks to the need gap, new technical advancements and a seamless amalgamation with the traditional doctor-patient relationship. Not to forget, the success of the players, will boil down to the how well the innovative and traditional system of healthcare services work seamlessly to benefit patrons without health insurance coverage.
Filling the Need Gap
On a global scale, the idea of healthcare at home has stemmed from the conceptual need for servicing a patient who is not stable enough to be in the hospital, yet, requires long-term professional care. This primarily implies allowing either doctor, nurse or expert caregivers in the home to take care of the patient as needed and sometimes, around the clock. In most countries, home healthcare providers need to be licensed for practical purposes, but due to India’s lack of regulatory system, home healthcare providers can provide services that have proven to be clinically and commercially beneficial.
The Players Are Making A Splash
Per a report published by PwC, the home healthcare market in the country is already worth USD 2 billion is and growing annually at 20% due to players like Healthacare At Home, Portea, Maxhealthcare, Medcareathome, Nightingales and many such portals. With services, such as nursing care, physiotherapy, doctors visit, post-operative care, diabetic care and geriatric package, the mission of all all the companies is unified – to make healthcare affordable, accessible without compromising on quality.
Who Gains the Most?
Vivek Srivastava, CEO, HealthCare at Home believes that it’s a disruptive model which benefits both the parties - doctors and patients. “On an average, India has 7 doctors and 107 beds per 1000 patients. That’s why a service like ours helps restore balance without compromising on a patient’s health”, he told us.
And when it comes to doctor’s the idea is to serve more patients Dr Gaurav Thukral, Senior Vice President and Business Unit Director at HealthCare at Home.
“Every doctor wants the best for his / her patients, and a model such as this gives the doctor more control over the treatment and reduces the scope of blame by the patient's family".
It's All About About the C
The word we are looking here is ‘Convenience’ and similar to ordering one's favourite food and having it delivered to the doorstep, in-home healthcare is all about bringing specialised service and care to people at their home. If one thinks about the target group that will benefit the most from these facilities are ageing adults in need regular medical care. And given the status of the abysmal doctor to patient ratio in the hospitals and lack of quality care, in-home healthcare also declutters the hospitals for more urgent cases. That’s why the most commonly availed services are nursing and caretaker visits including post-surgical care, suture removal and IV infusion.
The Business Model
The simplest and the most efficient business model followed by the players is to generate referrals by tying up with hospitals chains and doctors. As the players gain popularity and loyalty, their authority to bargain with hospitals with also rise. Another trend on the increase is of the hospitals providing their in-home healthcare services to try and beat the competition. Not surprisingly, with pressure to scale to gain new customers, a significant amount is also spent on digital marketing (apps, social media, blogs ) and building awareness.
Boon for Traditional Healthcare System?
The home-care business comes as a boon for the already burdened healthcare infrastructure in India. According to Shiksha Doshi, Gynecologist, “There is a significant shortage of physicians and nurses and not to forget, hospital beds which are a cause of concern". She's not off the mark because as per a report by Apollo Hospital, while India accounts for 20% of the global disease burden, it accounts for only 6% of world hospital beds and 8% share of doctors and nursing staff.
Per Dr Gaurav Thukral, Home healthcare concept complements the healthcare delivery by reducing the average length of stay, ensuring efficient utilisation of existing bed capacity and reducing chances of re-admission. “Hospitals can also provide better service if they work in tandem with the homecare providers”, he concluded.
As for the doctors, its time to modify the way the traditional clinic-based doctor ́patient relationship is approached.
As more and more patients will seek service at home, the implication on clinics cannot be ignored as footfalls will decline.
Vivek Srivastava added, “With the increasing affordability and income level, the number of patients seeking healthcare services will rise. Also, awareness of diseases, prevention and treatment will lead to an empowered consumer, which is a good thing”.
The Challenges and the Way to Overcome
The idea and industry of healthcare at home come with its set of problems which includes creating awareness, lack of skilled workforce, employee retention, technology, scaling difficulties due to small margins along with operational hindrances such as the almost non-existence of standard guidelines for in-home healthcare training and inconsistent quality.
Also, the issue of rising wages is leading the players to explore building a network or community of doctors, nurses to handle excess demands that can't be handled by in-house staff. Here also lies the opportunity for physicians to explore a new format to build a larger database of patients who need care. Lastly, the ability to handle last mile logistics and remote healthcare workers is critical. Specialised service providers are more capable of delivering this service than hospitals because the core competencies and business model will differ.
The Way Ahead
Despite all the challenges, it's time to imagine impressive growth and the seamless amalgamation of the traditional set-up and the home care service providers. Since key developments are expected in the areas of insurance, service protocols and regulations, a lot of focus will be directed towards building credibility.
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