India Missing Out on Massive Healthcare Opportunity Due to Poor Policies


Dr. Devi Shetty is aghast that India is not leveraging its strengths in becoming one of world’s leading healthcare training providers even when smaller countries like Cuba and Philippines are beating us to it.

Addressing the 2018 edition of Development Dialogue in Huballi early February, organized by the Deshpande Foundation, he said the next big innovation – the Uber of healthcare – is going to emerge out of India even though India’s WHO ranking of health systems is 112 below many poor countries.

For example, a 55,000 sq ft facility in Cuba in a mall trains hundreds of doctors to the US market. There are 35 medical schools in the Caribbean doing the same. Most of the teachers here are Indian. Why can’t policies in India enable this to happen here? We can, but our policies won’t allow.

Highlights of his hard-hitting presentation

World Health University

There will be shortage of 80.3 million healthcare workers in the next 13 years across the world. India alone will need 2 million doctors and 4 o 5 million nurses and technicians.

We cannot produce it overnight. We need to start planning now. It takes 14 years to train a surgeon to operate on hand, leave alone on heart.

Change is hard in India hence came up with the idea of a global university to train medical professionals. Content is online and country signatory should accept the degree. Training can happen in any hospital globally with more than 200 beds.

This is aimed at African doctors. African doctors are looking at India but we are shutting our doors.

As a foreign policy, it is so much better to engage in training and education with foreign countries which offer lasting benefits than focus on natural resources, like China is doing in Africa. India has natural advantages which it is squandering.

Modi’s Health Insurance Good if its Includes Surgery

Lack of access to surgery kills 17 million people across the world a year as against 3.4 million due to malaria, TB and HIV. So, excessive focus of healthcare should move away from infectious diseases to surgery. According to Lancet Commission data, India needs 60 million surgeries a year and only half get done by those who can pay. Therefore, the central government’s health insurance plan in 2018 Budget will be good if surgeries are included.

Nursing profession is dying because of bad policies. Most nurses in the US are allowed to administer anesthesia while in India, nurses who have worked in ICUs for 10 years are not allowed. They cannot even prescribe a simple medicine. Unless medical profession becomes inclusive, it cannot grow.

Threat of Unemployment a National Security Issue

The greatest threat to India is not external aggression but unemployed youth. If we don’t find jobs for 300 million youth, we are staring at a big crisis. For example, Maruti Udyog with a turnover of Rs.66,000 crore, employs only 13,500 people while Narayana Hrudhalaya, with a turnover of Rs. 2,000 crore, employs 15,000 people.

90% of NH employs are women. If this country is to progress rural women need to have jobs. With just 2 to 3 months training, we can offer jobs to thousands of rural women. Empowered women raise better children and this result in better nation- building.

With right policies India can earn at least $100 billion dollar a year in remittances. Healthcare can become the largest employer in India. Training is one of the biggest opportunities for India’s youth. The world no longer looks up to Indian IT professionals, but they like Indian doctors and nurses.

Agrarian crisis in India cannot be solved by any number of farm loan waivers or irrigation projects. The only way is by bringing the farmer families into the mainstream of the economy. We need to find jobs for rural women and children of farmers.

Interestingly, healthcare is the largest business sector globally at $ 8 trillion. Oil and automobile are only $2 trillion each. Healthcare is a big opportunity for India both for employment generation and for business. Why are we mute to this opportunity?

Civil society in India is not pushing for change. This could be one of the biggest reasons for the sorry state of affairs.

Super specialty hospital in 100 Towns

Medical education in India is in a mess because of the heavy cost of infrastructure. A medical school requires Rs.400 crore.

There are 100 towns in India which have no super specialty hospitals. These towns cannot afford it. So we tied up with L&T to build a super specialty hospital and equip each for only $6 million as against the conventional $20 million. The first one has come up in Mysore. The conventional hospital takes 2 years to put up while we did it in 6 months. It is doing extremely well.

This was possible because we believe that ‘Future is never an extension of the past. You can imagine the future differently.’ Price is notional. It is up to you how you want to price anything. These hospitals don’t need ACs nor fire safety equipment. In fact air conditioners add to infection.

No More Consultants in 5 Years

Online healthcare will dramatically transform healthcare. Most consultants will disappear in the next 5 years. In fact, online retail is more complex than online healthcare.

In 5 years smart software can do better diagnosis than smart doctors. In 10 years it could become legally mandatory for doctors to take second opinion from software. All this may happen faster than we can imagine.

The future of healthcare will be dramatically different. Uber does not own cars, Airbnb does not own a single hotel room, Facebook does not create content, Alibaba does not have inventory; in the future, hospital beds will be owned by software. It will happen in India.

We need to unleash the power of education to transform India.

Listen to Devi Shetty

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