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Where is the health sector in India;  Pros and cons

India’s healthcare sector is one of the largest in the country in terms of revenue and employment. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22% since 2016, the sector directly employs 4.7 million people, according to the latest NITI Aayog report.

The sector includes private and public medical institutions. While metros have the bulk of public and private hospitals, secondary, tertiary and quaternary care facilities are present in small towns and rural areas. Apart from medical facilities, India’s healthcare sector also includes medical devices and equipment, health insurance, clinical trials, telemedicine and medical tourism.

The sector is growing at a steady pace. This steady increase is due to the growth of the middle class, public-private partnerships, the adoption of digital technologies, a growing proportion of lifestyle-related diseases and an aging population.

The major strengths of India’s healthcare system include world-class hospitals and skilled healthcare professionals; low treatment costs compared to other countries; superior health care; strong Ayurvedic and homeopathic networks; and wellness services like yoga and meditation, among others.

With health tech startups in the lead, the e-health market is also growing in India by leaps and bounds. It is estimated at $10.6 billion by 2025.

According to the 2021 Global Health Security Index, India ranks 66th out of 195 countries. After evaluating several parameters, India’s overall index was calculated at 42.8. The United States, given first place on the list, scored 75.9.

India medical tourism market was valued at $2.89 billion in 2020. It is expected to reach $13.42 billion by 2026. According to India Tourism Statistics at a Glance 2020 report, around 6,97,300 foreign tourists are came for medical treatment in India in fiscal year 2019. The medical tourism industry was estimated at $5-6 billion in mid-2020, but the COVID pandemic has dampened its growth.

India is the fourth largest market for medical devices in Asia after Japan, China and South Korea. India’s medical device market is estimated at $11 billion and is expected to reach $50 billion by 2025, according to a report by IBEF.

India’s progress in health is unbalanced. While the private sector is largely concentrated in Tier I and Tier II cities, people in small towns and rural areas, especially the hills, struggle to access quality health facilities. In addition, several public medical institutions have insufficient human resources and are not well equipped.

Either way, serving a population of 1.4 billion remains a herculean task, but the lack of educational institutions and medical training compounds the situation. Currently, India has 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people and about 65% of hospital beds in India serve almost 50% of the population concentrated in states like Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The other 50% of the country’s population only have access to 35% of hospital beds, according to the NITI Aayog report.

The Center strives to make India a hub for spiritual and wellness tourism and a global center for Ayurveda and yoga. To attract more foreign investment, the Center allowed 100% FDI (foreign direct investment) in greenfield projects and 74% in brownfield projects in the pharmaceutical sector.

Significantly, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed the adoption of telemedicine and changed people’s perspectives on personal health and hygiene, health insurance, health monitoring, fitness physical and nutrition, and medical examinations.

The Centre’s flagship initiative – Ayushman Bharat – comprehensively strengthens the health system from primary to tertiary care. Under this program, drugs and diagnostic services are provided free of charge.

The government aims to increase health spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025. In the 2021 budget, India’s government health spending was 1.2% of GDP.

(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)

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