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World Health Day: Why specialised healthcare programmes in India are on the rise?

Universal Health Coverage, has been the major aim to accomplish by many countries by 2030 and has been creating a lot of buzz around the globe.

This year's theme for World Health Day is universal health coverage. The union budget - 2018 has created a benchmark by announcing the world's biggest government-funded healthcare programme to cater to the needs of the ill and ailing. India's healthcare sector seriously needed the much-needed attention. Also, the need of the hour has to be more specialised health care programs to cater to the groups that need maximum attention.

Universal Health Coverage, has been the major aim to accomplish by many countries by 2030 and has been creating a lot of buzz around the globe. The reason why it is also the theme of this year's 'World Health Day'. To ensure proper health coverage this year the government decided to provide insurance coverage of 5 lakh per family to 10 lakh of people providing monetary support for TB patients which has been the biggest public health menace for us.

However, for India to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) before 2030 still has a long way to go. To understand why we need specialised health care programmes we Dr Usha Manjunath, Director Institute of Healthcare Management & Research (IIHMR Bangalore), here is an excerpt from the interview:

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Why do we need specialised healthcare programmes in India?

In India, healthcare management was never a specialized function. Elsewhere, it is among the most important of jobs in healthcare and it sees professionals from across disciplines. Be it dentists, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, radiologists, among other healthcare professionals.

The focus of healthcare change as the disease patterns and priorities change and so do delivery models. Overall the focus is diseases and their prevention. Manpower challenges of Indian health sector are very well known. The recent strikes by nurses in Kerala or by doctors in Karnataka brought out the skeletons in the cupboard. Amidst this chaos, the healthcare managers kept the system from falling apart.

Who do you think needs more attention in terms of being trained to achieve UHC and participate in specialised healthcare programmes?

India's healthcare sector grew about 25% per annum in recent years. With the rapid expansion, healthcare management professionals were in demand. The game changers are those with the 'technical skills', be it health, IT, soft skills or people skills.

Health Management requires a deep understanding, and a general management student may not pick up the intricacies of the sector and an epidemiologist will not be an effective 'Public Health Manager'.

Others in the sector like nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, radiologists are equally important. But, their growth prospects are limited.They see no prospects as they never expect to move up with their qualifications. With a course in Hospital Management, many join the managerial cadre.

While doctors are the key provider's healthcare sector, professional managers play an equally significant role:

  • In ensuring hospitals operate efficiently;
  • In creating a patient-centric organization that takes care of patient experience beyond treatment, into total care.

Should healthcare management in terms of education be given prominence to ensure UHC?

Healthcare management will be key in developing the sector. Building on education, research and analysis, it will provide thought leaders within the sector, and bring together public and private entities to meet the needs of the sector, and provide a platform for innovation and transformation.

With health IT and disruptive technologies becoming important, the industry is smarter. NASSCOM valued the Health Information Technology (HIT) around USD1 billion in 2016, forecast it to grow 150% by 2020. But, for driving innovations and transformations, a professional is required.

Healthcare managers would be able to play a major role in making NITI Aayog's recently-articulated vision of transforming health services and outcomes a reality by taking up initiatives using the state-level Disease Burden data.

How can healthcare facilities and telemedicine help in achieving UHC?

Healthcare IT or HIT facilitates the job of a healthcare manager. Though cycle times for revenues and profits are longer, nearly 300 start-ups joined the fray in 2015. Health apps, from monitoring vitals to making diagnoses easier were the most-funded health technology areas from 2010-2015.

At the hospital, Health IT costs USD32 million to improve patient diagnosis, data management, e-prescription, pathology lab management, scheduling of appointments, case analysis etc.

The managers' job is facilitated by Electronic Medical/Health Records, cloud computing, 3D printing, mobile and IoT and will impact care processes in various settings, be it in outpatient, inpatient, emergency/ambulance, ICUs, critical care, robotic surgery, home healthcare services etc.

Health IT managers have various opportunities beckoning them: domain specialists to interface with IT companies and hospitals, implementation, change management, requirements gathering, data analytics and so on. Their value proposition is their unique competencies regarding healthcare processes, quality, management, knowledge of Health IT and support functions to software development/implementation as well as consulting.

Image source: Shutterstock

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