Indian healthcare industry should tackle challenges with IT and connected health

India has been pushed to the bottom five countries with the lowest public health spending globally and accounts for 21 percent of the world’s burden of disease, says a new report launched by Accenture.

The report, titled ‘Delivering e-Health in India – Analysis and Recommendations’ says implementation of IT and connected health can revolutionize the healthcare sector in the country.

India’s healthcare system greatly suffers from underfunding and poor governance which have created significant inequities in providing basic health care.

While India’s healthcare expenditure has increased in the past and the government plans to increase the same further to nearly 2.5 percent of the GDP in the 12th five year plan, India has invested less public money in health than most comparable countries. India’s overall health spending does reach 6 percent of the GDP but most of that is private money, Accenture said.

In general the report identifies that greater healthcare funding cannot guarantee better access to the healthcare facilities, unless accompanied by powerful and innovative interventions to improve the healthcare ecosystem.

Indian healthcare

Accenture has listed major challenges hampering the growth of the healthcare sector and therefore the delivery of healthcare services. Some of them include substantial gaps in healthcare infrastructure, low healthcare insurance service coverage leading to high levels of out of pocket spending, and lack of adequate manpower.

The report identifies the importance of shifting from ‘infrastructure focus’ to ‘productivity focus’ to generate corresponding improvements in India’s healthcare access. This can only be achieved if larger fund allocation for healthcare is accompanied by effective and innovative interventions to improve the existing healthcare ecosystem in order to achieve global standards.

According to Krishna Giri, managing director, Health & Public Services, Accenture in India, comprehensive adoption of Information Technology and digitization of systems to improve access to these services is central to the success of these initiatives.

The adoption of IT in Health Facilities in India has been abysmal at best. While it is definitely a cause for concern, it is imperative to understand the various drivers and roadblocks of health IT adoption in India, in order to ensure the successful implementation of the recommendations made in this report, the report said.

Accenture suggests five key measures that can have the most significant impact on improving healthcare access in India. They are: implementing hospital information systems and records digitization, automation of supply chain, empowering citizens through information dissemination, handheld based data collection and analytics-enabled real time disease surveillance.

While most of these proposed interventions have either been rolled out, or envisaged in parts of India, the implementation, almost always, has been partial or incomplete. What seems to be required is a whole-hog approach to the country-wide rollout of these interventions, failing which, the real benefits may not be fully realized, Accenture said.

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