In the last two years, the pandemic has brought with it several challenges for the healthcare sector. The contagion managed to overwhelm even the best healthcare ecosystems in developed countries. The already strained Indian medical services fell short in many areas. With the third wave slowing down, it is time for us to take stock of the situation and assess where healthcare services are headed in 2022 and beyond.
One of the biggest challenges today is the over-dependence on tertiary healthcare. There is very little emphasis on primary healthcare. The infrastructure too is concentrated in the urban areas. In rural areas, primary healthcare centres are either non-existent or are operating without adequate support and staff. Consequently, the burden for healthcare service delivery falls on private hospitals and tertiary care facilities in the urban areas. Also, the costs of healthcare are mostly borne by patients or their families as the health insurance penetration is very low, and even for those covered, the costs of care outside the hospital are not included in their policies.
The fragmented nature of operations and lack of collaboration between various stakeholders has proven to be the biggest bane for patients. The solution lies in the creation of a holistic end-to-end integration and standardisation of health services. It will also help in making them accessible and affordable for the public.
Lessons are being learned, and India is steadily moving towards a new normal, not only in the way of living and working, but also in the healthcare sector. As a country where private healthcare providers deliver nearly 60% of medical services, significant investments are now being made to prevent recurrence of chaos like last year.
Integrated management of healthcare is now emerging as a major component of the medical ecosystem in the country. While upgradation and expansion of healthcare infrastructure and technologies is a must, we are going to witness a surge in holistic healthcare management on a subscription-based model. The managed healthcare services will be protocol-driven, and cover all aspects of support including patient transportation, diagnostic checks, primary care consultations, telemedicine, hospitalisation and even recuperative care after a surgery or illness. Another major impact of these services will be a reduction of out-of-pocket expenses for treatment.
Typically, when someone subscribes to the insurance provider, the only promise is that the insurance company would refund the cost of treatment or directly pay the hospital bills to the service provider. The insurer is not involved in the process of ensuring quality treatment for the patient or providing preventive healthcare guidance and support. With integrated healthcare management services gaining popularity, the focus will shift to ‘care’ from mere ‘reimbursement.’ Managed care providers will own the entire value chain starting from initial consultations, diagnostics, referrals to specialists and hospital care wherever needed – be it home or office.
With offices reopening, employee wellness will be on every organisation’s priority list. Handling end-to-end care, Healthcare Management Organisations or HMOs will increasingly partner with corporates to facilitate guidance, monitoring of employees, and provide medical support on-premises or on-call as per need.
Standardised, quality and affordable healthcare for patients in a seamless as well as comfortable manner is the need of the hour. As new-age companies, HMOs will bring this promise to fruition through their integrated and care-centric approach in 2022 and the years that follow!