India has a population of approximately 1.3 billion as of the year 2017, of which one-third live in the rural areas. Also, there are parts of India, which have a topology that makes access to them difficult and the travel time-consuming. Also, with a rise in infectious diseases as well as in non-communicable diseases, gives India’s healthcare a double burden that needs to combat. The growing elderly population also places an enormous burden on India’s healthcare systems and services.
Indians live more affluent lives and adopt unhealthy diets that are high in unhealthy components due to which the country is experiencing a rapidly rising trend in non-communicable diseases and lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cancer, and diabetes. This healthcare crisis is expected to grow at a faster rate than other infectious diseases.
The other factors that come as a crisis in India’s healthcare, are the substantial shortages of hospital beds and trained medical staff such as doctors and nurses. Due to this public accessibility to such hospitals, even in the most remote areas, is reduced. There is also a considerable rural-urban imbalance in which accessibility is significantly lower in rural compared to urban areas.
Private healthcare providers include everything from private hospitals to private doctors that promote medical tourism by offering world-class services to patients, who can afford its services.
Today, India is experiencing a growing reliance on private healthcare providers who currently treat 78% of out-patients and 60% of in-patients. Furthermore, the strength of the private sector is illustrated by the fact that it regulates 80% of the doctor’s, 26% of the hospital’s medical staff, 49% of beds, and 78% of ambulatory services. The heavy increase in private healthcare providers can be viewed as a result of lacking quality care that is provided offered by public providers, shortages of doctors, and congestion at the public healthcare facilities.
This subsequently results in about 72% of out-of-pocket expenses that are directed at the cost of medicines, which puts some significant pressure on the individual. It is not uncommon that some are driven below the poverty line due to the costs they incur in order to access healthcare services.
The health needs of the country are enormous and the financial resources and managerial capacity available to meet them, even on the most optimistic projections, fall somewhat short. Hence, it has to be recognised that such health needs are also powerful, as threats in the area of public health keep changing over time.
Ineffective implementation, lack of rules, lack of uniform standards, and non-coverage of laboratories or diagnostic centres are some of the issues that need to be corrected. Also information about the number, role, nature, structure, functioning and quality of care in private hospitals remains inadequate. With no national regulations regarding provider standards and healthcare treatment protocols in place, over-diagnosis, over-treatment, and maltreatment are common. Against this backdrop the challenges that India’s healthcare system faces in providing care to its citizens are substantial.