Umang Vohra is the MD & Global CEO of Cipla.
The past two years have brought in revolutionary changes across the globe, especially in the healthcare industry, from individuals taking ownership of their wellbeing, leading to a conscious shift from ‘illness to wellness’, to the latest innovations that create new digitally-driven medical solutions. The new developments are embracing a personalised focus in healthcare while reforming and reshaping the industry to a new beginning. This new world order built on the foundation of collaboration, backed by scientific advancements, driven by data will result in making healthcare more accessible and affordable.
We must act upon the learnings from the pandemic to effectively manage the healthcare crises of the future. Some of the aspects that I believe are crucial in this regard are:
Policy interventions to equip the ecosystem
Health crisis preparedness is part of the larger vision of health for all. The need of the hour is to make public health a national priority; structure policies that are well rounded and focus on infrastructural development as well disease management and prevention. The current pandemic has shown how a crisis engulfs health systems leaving the middle to lower-income countries fragile. The right approach is to identify problem areas and take immediate action. The recent Union Budget of 2022, through its Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, aptly captured the reason for a strong, digital healthcare ecosystem to enable access to health and medical care across the country. We need to implement it well to ensure care and access is delivered to the last mile.
Extensive collaboration across the board
The world has witnessed the power of large-scale collaborations during the last two years. A public-private partnership between government, social, and private organisations will be beneficial as each can invest towards the public good. A major issue in healthcare is the accessibility divide between the urban and rural populations. A KPMG report reveals that 74 percent of doctors in India practice in urban areas. It means that the population living in rural areas lack even primary healthcare facilities. Therefore, this gap holds the potential to be addressed by a collaboration by all three pillars.
Focus on curative and preventive care infrastructure
Traditionally healthcare has been driven by patients listening to doctors’ advice and following a prescriptive treatment. With slowly progressing and often ‘silent’ chronic diseases now being the main cause of illness, healthcare and medicine must evolve into a proactive system. The predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory approach in medicine holds great promise to reduce the burden of chronic diseases and the underlying mechanisms of chronic diseases. Beyond this, rampant environmental issues like air pollution, climate change can impact health in a big way. Therefore, it is important to address these external environmental factors equally to avoid deteriorating health conditions.
The shift from the one-size-fits-all mindset
Having wreaked havoc on everyone’s body and mind, the pandemic is playing a crucial role in changing the Indian approach to health and wellness. India is a country associated with traditional practices of Ayurveda, yoga and meditation for overall physical and mental wellbeing. Today, the average Indian consumer is taking baby steps towards an all-encompassing approach to wellness. However, many practical issues come in the way. For instance, in a joint family setup, it is difficult to cater to the specific nutritional needs of each member. Another crucial aspect is that most Indians hold a casual attitude towards healthcare, thinking nothing can affect them and that a lingering cough is mild and will take care of itself. The concept of wellness, which is still nascent in India, is majorly driven by the western world and might be looked at with suspicion by our population. There is an urgent need for a mindset change to make people believe that holistic wellness is essential to strengthening immunity and the lack of sickness does not guarantee overall wellbeing.
Overall, the wellness industry has immense potential to boom owing to the growing consumer awareness, increasing incomes and desire amongst the millennial populations to transform their lifestyles for better health outcomes. The industry will need to adopt a comprehensive ecosystem-based approach and imbibe lessons from sectors like FMCG, beauty, and so on where personalisation has taken centre stage.
Disruptive technologies shaping the future of healthcare
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, robotics, digitisation, and deep learning have tremendous potential to comprehend and interpret big data in medicine. Similarly, personal health tracking has increased manifold due to the proliferation of consumer wearables and other medical devices combined with AI that will continue to transform the definition of care, from curative to evidence-based. For instance, an app on your phone can control your diet and exercise, monitor sleep, some wearables monitor health data such as blood pressure, glucose levels, and oxygen levels. Digital technologies are revolutionising the health sector, offering services that are increasingly focused on the patient and have a better cost-benefit ratio. Even in rural areas, telemedicine services can reduce or minimise burdens patients encounter, such as transportation issues related to travel for speciality care.
The future of healthcare will be governed by six aspects:
» Data sharing
» Equitable access
» Empowered consumers
» Behaviour change, and
» Scientific breakthrough
These will collectively transform the existing health system from treatment-based reactionary care to prevention and wellbeing.
And to enable this transformation, every stakeholder in the healthcare ecosystem will have to reimagine their role to reset and unlock the future of the healthcare continuum.
The writer is MD & Global CEO of Cipla.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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