Healthcare innovation

Healthcare Industry: Is Indian healthcare system ready…

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Healthcare Industry: Is Indian healthcare system ready…


Is Indian healthcare system ready for future pandemics?By Ritika Sakhuja

New Delhi: Two years after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry claims to be taking proactive measures to ensure that healthcare delivery systems and supply of pharmaceuticals and medical devices are adequately strengthened for future calamities.

However, in light of recent outbreaks of infectious diseases across the world, such as Measles in Maharashtra, Cholera in Haiti, Ebola in Sudan, cases of Japanese Encephalitis and Zika virus in India, the global outbreak of Mpox, and newer variants of COVID-19 emerging globally, it is apparent that healthcare systems across the world are still struggling to effectively tackle infectious diseases before they become public health emergencies.

ETHealthworld spoke to healthcare experts to gather a round-up of the response and preparedness of the healthcare system, especially the methods employed by the industry and masses alike, to manage and rectify future outbreaks.

COVID – 19 accelerated advancements in healthcare

As people dealt with uncertainty all over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed an urgency that pushed the healthcare systems to fastrack clinical trials, manufacturing, and healthcare delivery. There was a dire need for transformation and innovation to make healthcare affordable, precise, and hassle-free.

Citing an example to support this claim, Dr K Hari Prasad, President, Group – Hospitals Division, Apollo Health City said, “The COVID-19 vaccine is the most well-known invention brought about by the pandemic. From the bench to the market, the development of a new pharmaceutical drug takes between 10 and 15 years. However, COVID-19 vaccine development was significantly expedited, and vaccines were made available to the general public within a year.”

Dr Prasad further explained how hospitals started exercising measures to expedite care to prevent delays, hence reducing the likelihood that a patient would need an ICU or ventilator. They also assumed a proactive stance by anticipating and detecting potential future obstacles before they manifest or become a problem. In addition to the healthcare institutions, motivated by governmental and private sources of healthcare information alike, the masses also realised personal accountability in combating infectious diseases.

Commenting on the impact that COVID-19, and now outbreaks of diseases like Measles, has had on the general population, Dr Tushar Parikh, Chief Consultant Neonatologist & Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital said, “People have now become aware that vaccination does protect from diseases. Millennials had not seen outbreaks of polio or many vaccine-preventable diseases as there was reasonable vaccine coverage. There is better acceptance of vaccination and overall hygiene measures with covid, more respect for healthcare workers and hospitals, and a better understanding of home monitoring and resorting to health.”

Tackling infectious diseases is a never-ending battle

Despite the continuous efforts of health institutions, infectious diseases prop up all over the world, weaseling their way through the most minuscule cracks in the healthcare systems. According to the Indian government, more than 220 crore doses of the COVID vaccine have been administered in the country so far under the nationwide vaccination drive. Yet COVID persists to date and regularly mutates rendering healthcare responses inadequate, and generating a need for constant adaptability through innovation.

Similarly, during the COVID pandemic, measles cases in India dropped to the lowest in many years, with 5,700 cases in 2021 and 5,604 in 2020, mainly because the airborne viral infection could not spread with children staying home. However, in 2022, India has already registered more than 9000 cases.

Moreover, considering the cases of cholera in Haiti, and Ebola in Sudan, the countries were at a standstill as their health systems were incapable of tackling such widespread outbreaks, putting them at the mercy of foreign intervention. These cases prove that at a certain point, the masses can not always wait for healthcare systems to catch up. The masses are an equal part of a country’s healthcare system, and their immunity reduces the undue burden on health infrastructures, allowing the industry adequate space and time for innovation.

Commenting on the same, Dr Samir H Dalwai, Developmental Pediatrician, New Horizons Health and Research Foundation said, “Modifying the human lifestyle on an individual basis is more crucial than waiting for a new antiviral or waiting for a breakthrough in vaccines. Each of us needs to be more proactive about protecting ourselves from the environment. All infectious diseases are an interaction between the host, the infectious agent and the environment. Ayurveda, homoeopathy or nutrition talks about fortifying the host, pharma industry talks about killing the agent and microbes through antibiotics or antivirals. However, we have neglected to take the environment into account. What we are seeing in the origin of COVID, HIV, or ebola, is an evolution of the host agent in the environment.”

Experts recommend that masks are here to stay, not just to protect against the virus but also against pollution. When stepping out of the house, we must be on alert and appropriately modify our interaction with the environment. The best way to protect ourselves from infectious diseases is to take necessary health measures like vaccinations on time and reduce transmission as much as possible.

Are we ready for future pandemics?

Assuring the potential of India’s healthcare industry, Dr Bipin Jibhkate, Consultant critical care medicine, and ICU director at Wockhardt Hospitals said, “Many hospitals have entered into long-term contracts with the pharma industry to ensure that supply will not be an issue in times of crisis, which is essential since medicines have an expiry and can’t be stored forever. We have also been able to develop vaccines as fast as western countries have developed them. So our industry is also capable of making those vaccines accordingly, and making them available as fast as the western world.”

In 2022 India’s pharmaceutical industry proved that it possesses world-class standard manufacturing expertise in generic medicines and vaccines. Virtual patient care and the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that integrated data to speed up global statistics analysis were also significant areas that contributed to healthcare advancements in India in 2022.

However, recommending a few areas that the Indian healthcare industry should focus on to strengthen their systems further, Dr Anita Mathew, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital advised, “Affordable healthcare, healthcare for all is the need of the hour, and medicines need to be standardised. Secondly, we need to be at par with the western countries as far as the basic needs of nurses are considered, they are an important part of our health force and need to be adequately incentivized. Third, we need more doctors in the country. We don’t have a good doctor-patient ratio, especially in rural areas. These couple of measures will help streamline the healthcare industry.”

Concluding her statement, Dr Mathew added, “Despite the advancements that are yet to be implied, are we geared up for any future pandemics? The answer is going to be a resounding yes!”

India established itself as a global leader due to its accomplishments in the timely manufacturing of medicines, disposables, medical equipment, and vaccines. Experts cautioned that India’s healthcare system will face similar disease outbreaks in the future, indicating a continued effort towards regular disease surveillance. The healthcare experts collectively believed that India’s healthcare system is well equipped to tackle future adversities, provided the masses do their part.

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