India is at a Pivotal Moment in its Health-Care Journey

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    Syllabus: GS2/ Health, Government Policies & Interventions, Issues Arising out of their Design & Implementation

    In Context

    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming health care worldwide, and India has the potential to be at the forefront of this revolution.

    India’s Healthcare Journey

    • The country has made tremendous progress on key health metrics.
      • Infant mortality has improved by four times, 
      • Maternal mortality has improved by seven times and 
      • The average life expectancy of an Indian is up nearly 30% from 55 years to over 70 now.
    • Today, India has world-class health-care infrastructure along with incredible clinical talent that delivers the best in class clinical outcomes at incredible scale and at a fraction of the global price. 
    • India’s expertise in highly specialised areas such as organ transplants, cardiology, oncology and more has made the country a fast-growing destination for medical value travel (MVT), not just for the price but also for the speed of access and the sheer quality of care.

    India’s Achievements in Healthcare

    • Proton beam therapy technology:
      • A significant milestone in this journey is the introduction of proton beam therapy technology, making India a regional leader in cancer treatment. 
      • Patients from across the globe are drawn to India for its world-class medical expertise, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and cost-effective care.
    • Orthopaedic procedures:
      • Orthopaedic procedures, including joint replacements and spinal surgeries, are conducted by highly skilled surgeons using minimally invasive techniques. 
      • This attracts patients seeking top-notch orthopaedic care at competitive prices.
    • Robotic surgeries:
      • Robotic surgery has also gained popularity, with India’s hospitals adopting robotic-assisted techniques for precision and faster recovery. 
      • The country’s expertise in this area draws international patients seeking minimally invasive, high-precision surgical interventions.
    • Medical value travel (MVT):
      • MVT is gaining strategic importance given its ability to create employment as well as earn foreign exchange
      • While India is already one of the leading destinations for patients seeking care abroad, there is adequate headroom for growth.

    Challenges

    • India’s non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden:
      • India is now the world’s diabetes capital; also, millions have hypertension, and its youth are succumbing to heart attacks, cancer, respiratory issues, depression and more.
      • If left unchecked, India’s non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden will be nearly $4 trillion by 2030. 
      • This is one of the biggest roadblocks to India’s development and will create an ‘age tax’ on India’s demographic dividend.
    • India’s Struggle with Health indicators:
      • India still faces issues like, poor Health, lack of adequate number of doctors, lack of expenditure on health, poor sanitation, lack of safe drinking water, increased drug resistance of many diseases,  lack of infrastructure in remote locations, etc.
    • Burden of healthcare in India:
      • Vaccinating a single child against all childhood illnesses costs at least Rs 1,600.
      • A day of hospitalisation at a public hospital is estimated at Rs 2,800.
        • At a private hospital, it is Rs 6,800. 
      • Add to these the expenses for supporting women through deliveries, control of infectious disease, primary healthcare, and much more.
      • It is, therefore, no surprise that the system fails the most vulnerable and they are forced to turn to the expensive private sector.
    • For elderly and sick: 
      • The poor, elderly and sick are already at a disadvantage and the burden of health expenditure makes this even worse.

    Suggestions

    • Improved awareness & health checks:
      • The health-care industry should join hands and protect India from the menace of non-communicable diseases (NCD) by increasing awareness, advocating better lifestyle choices and enabling comprehensive health checks
      • Health checks should include proper scans instead of having just blood tests that are simply inadequate to test for many early signs of diseases.
    • Public-private partnerships for MVTs:
      • Public-private partnerships can help create a conducive environment for MVT by jointly investing in infrastructure, promoting medical tourism, and setting up international health-care accreditation bodies.
    • Role of AI:
      • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming health care worldwide, and India has the potential to be at the forefront of this revolution. 
      • Diagnostics: One of the key areas where AI can make a significant impact is in diagnostics.
        • AI-powered tools can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnoses, leading to faster treatment decisions and better patient outcomes. 
      • Predictions & preventions: Additionally, AI can help predict disease outbreaks, analyse health-care data, and optimise treatment plans, expediting health-care procedures, and revolutionising drug discovery ultimately making health care more personalised and effective.

    Way Ahead

    • India stands at a pivotal moment in its health-care journey. By reimagining its health-care model, the country can position itself as the global destination for medical value travel, a powerhouse in AI-driven health-care solutions, and a leader in combating NCDs. 
    • To achieve this vision, India must prioritise community health, foster public-private partnerships, and invest in innovation and research
    • With concerted efforts and a commitment to excellence, a healthier and more prosperous India can be built for generations to come.
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] What role can Artificial Intelligence (AI) play in India’s healthcare system?