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Health sector is the lifeline for a nation’s wellbeing. The article gives a detailed outlook on healthcare in India and the emergence of the private sector post liberalization.

Health Sector

Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and just not the non existence of disease or ailment. Health is a primary human right and has been accorded due importance by the Constitution through Article 21.Though Article 21 stresses upon state governments to safeguard the health and nutritional well being of the people, the central government also plays an active role in the sector. Recognizing the critical role played by the Health Industry, the industry has been conferred with the infrastructure status under section 10(23G) of the Income Act.

The Indian Health sector consists of
  • Medical care providers like physicians, specialist clinics, nursing homes, hospitals.
  • Diagnostic service centers and pathology laboratories.
  • Medical equipment manufacturers.
  • Contract research organizations (CRO's), pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • Third party support service providers (catering, laundry).
Before Independence
Conventionally health care in India has been based on voluntary work. Since ancient times traditional practitioners of health care have contributed to the medicinal needs of society. Acute knowledge in the medicinal properties of plants and herbs were passed on from one generation to another to be used for treatment. The colonial rule and the dominance of the Britishers changed the scenario. Hospitals managed by Christian missionaries took centre stage. Even the intellectual elite in India with their pro west bias favored Western practices.

After Independence
Prior to independence the healthcare in India was in shambles with large number of deaths and spread of infectious diseases. After independence the Government of India laid stress on Primary Health Care and India has put in sustained efforts to better the health care system across the country. The government initiative was not enough to meet the demands from a growing population be it in primary, secondary or tertiary health care. Alternate sources of finance were critical for the sustainability of the health sector.

Entry Of Private Sector
Till about 20 years back, the private sectors venture in the health care sector consisted of only solo practitioners, small hospitals and nursing homes. The quality of service provided was excellent especially in the hospitals run by charitable trusts and religious foundations. In 1980's realizing that the government on its own would not be able to provide for health care, the government allowed the entry of private sector to reduce the gap between supply and demand for healthcare. The private hospitals are managed by corporate, non-profit or charitable organizations. The establishment of private sector has resulted in the emergence of opportunities in terms of medical equipment, information technology in health services, BPO, Telemedicine and medical tourism.

Large companies and affluent individuals have started five star hospitals which dominate the space for high end market. The private sector has made tremendous progress, but on the flip side it is also responsible for increasing inequality in healthcare sector. The private should be more socially relevant and efforts must be made to make private sector accessible to the weaker section of society.

Information Technology In Health Services
Information technology is increasing being used in health services. Some of the applications are:
  • Barcode Medication Administration where technology is used to reduce medication dispensing errors, improve patient safety in hospital settings.
  • Chronic Disease Management where in technology is used to manage chronic illness like diabetes and heart failure.
  • Telehealth where in technology connect doctors and patients in different geographical locations.
Medical Tourism
Medical tourism is a relatively new concept, which is becoming popular globally. India has several advantages in favor of medical tourism like infrastructure, technology, cost effective medical care and hospitalization qualified and skilled doctors. Traditional Indian rejuvenation methods like yoga, ayurvedic massage find favor with people in western countries and corporate hospitals and wellness centers are cashing on this.

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