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Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been massive disruptions across different industries, apparently hitting the healthcare industry the hardest. Shortage of medical oxygen supply, wastage of vaccines due to lack of cold storage facilities, and acute shortage of staff, were among the biggest obstacles for India in fight against the Covid-19 pandemic this year. But thankfully, the healthcare industry effectively managed the outbreak with the support from the central and state governments.
The pandemic also almost entirely changed how the healthcare industry in India operates. On the positive side, the country witnessed a significant increase in the use of telehealth among people, rise of diagnostics and equipment, as well as health infrastructure upgradation in both the public and private sectors.
As the year 2021 comes to an end, healthcare industry experts have shared their views on the trends expected in healthcare, telemedicine, medtech and pharma industry in 2022. Here's what they say:
The healthcare market can increase three-fold to Rs. 8.6 trillion (US$ 133.44 billion) by 2022, said Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, Entod Pharmaceutical (specializes in Ophthalmology, Dermatology and ENT).
"Despite initial hiccups, the healthcare system in India managed to withstand the pandemic. The different efforts in manufacturing of medical equipment, disposables, drugs and the most recent vaccine efforts made by India have placed us as a global leader. India is full of opportunities for players in the medical devices industry. The country has also become one of the leading destinations for high-end diagnostic services with tremendous capital investment for advanced diagnostic facilities, thus catering to a greater proportion of population. The country's competitive advantage lies in the increased success rate of Indian companies in getting Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) approvals. India also offers vast opportunities in R&D as well as medical tourism," he noted.
After the Covid-19 pandemic, governments and organizations have become more focused towards building digital infrastructure and preventive healthcare. These efforts will surely pave the way to a brighter future for the healthcare industry in the years to come, Masurkar asserted.
According to Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth (a unit of Apollo Hospitals Group), there's been almost an 80 per cent rise in consumption of digital healthcare services after COVID-19.
"Although there has been slow adaptation of digital tools in the healthcare industry, everything changed with the outbreak of the pandemic. The effect of healthcare technology and digital solutions was felt in many different ways than we could have expected. During the lockdown, both the patients and the healthcare practitioners realized the importance of digitisation," he said.
Healthcare service providers are increasingly adopting telemedicine and remote patient monitoring to virtually manage patients, predict and prevent illnesses, and improve clinical outcomes.
"Digital technologies like extended reality, cloud systems, big data, and artificial intelligence are taking the center stage to enhance user- experience and increase process efficiency. These technologies have accelerated digital health, remote patient monitoring and timely clinical protocols. In the coming years too, digital health applications and therapeutics, personal health wearables, and AI, NLP (neural language processing), robotics process automation or the RPA-enabled process accelerators in clinical prediction, operational transformation and compliance improvement will further drive and shape the future of healthcare," Thaploo added.
Satish Kannan, Co-founder & CEO, MediBuddy agreed that the year 2021 has been a defining year for healthcare, as it witnessed achievements that have been extremely vital and path-breaking for the industry.
Sharing his views on the recent changes in the digital healthcare industry, Kannan said, "The awareness of digital healthcare has been on the rise, with more people across geographies embracing it. We also saw an increase in those prioritizing their health and fitness by giving importance to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The increased interest in prioritizing one's health can be attributed to factors like technological advancements and ease of access to credible information and better healthcare services."
Not only Covid-19 led to an impressive rise in virtual and homecare-driven device segments, but there has been an increased emphasis on making low-cost lifesaving devices such as ventilators and oxygen concentrators, pointed out Ashok Patel, CEO and Founder, Max Ventilator.
Talking about the expectations in medical technology, he stated, " from now onwards, the rule of 4 beds per ventilator will become more of a reality. With telemedicine and app-based online pharmacies becoming more of a constant surrounding our daily lives spurring innovations in related devices and equipment, the coming year will also see more action in big data, AI and machine learning-based disease prediction technologies, apart from a push to more sophisticated surgical devices meant for a range of conditions such as neurological, cardio-vascular, oncological, orthopedic or musculosketal conditions."
However, for AI-based ventilators to become a reality, he said "more time would be needed."
"While make-in-India has gained momentum with the view to become more self-reliant, the Chinese products have received a setback. This means that quality will determine the entry of new products and more rigorous quality checks will increasingly become a norm. The coming year will also see major investment and focus on medical device components and parts in the country. At the same time, given the surging omicron cases outside India and a repeat of the same not totally being out of question in India, Covid-related devices and equipment will continue to remain a focus of attention of manufacturers in the country in the coming year," he added.
The year 2021 was a challenging one for India's health sector as the lethal second wave of Covid-19 resulted in an unprecedented number of deaths and unparalleled suffering for countless others in the country.
"It did, however, serve as a valuable lesson for the entire healthcare industry, leading to the resurrection and upgrading of health infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. We not only have a completely functional oxygen plant but are also now fully equipped to face new challenges, such as Omicron, with a team of experienced doctors and paramedical staff," shared Dr H S Chhabra, Director, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.
Dr Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka, said that they are ready for 2022, with a solid infrastructure in place to help counteract the possibility of Covid's third wave. As the New Year approaches, they are also hoping to complete the trials for the children's Covid vaccine.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the countrywide Covid-19 vaccination programme on January 16. The plan was to fully vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of 2021, but the current number is still far from the target. According to the latest updates from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, over 60 per cent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated now. The country's COVID-19 vaccination coverage has now crossed 140.24 Crore (1,40,24,47,922), according to the Health Ministry data updated on December 23.
The World Health organisation (WHO)'s target is to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of all countries by the end-2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022.
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