29 October 2013

SA could learn from India's healthcare

South Africa can learn much from India’s example in making healthcare more easily available, says an expert.

Cape Town - The managing director of an India-based consulting firm, Dr Adheet Goggate, says Indian healthcare players have innovated relentlessly, with the result that private healthcare companies are booming and more people than ever are able to access quality healthcare at different price points. 

Speaking at the Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa) conference, he said: “Like South Africa, we have a situation where world-class outcomes co-exist with nearly unavailable care.

About 60% of the country does not have reliable ambulance services and rehabilitation facilities and paramedical care is largely absent, yet we have pockets of excellence.

The interesting thing is that these pockets are not necessarily at high price points but exist at virtually all price points.”

Too little capacity

He explained that India’s private hospital sector was worth $12bn in 2002 and is expected to grow to $160bn in 2020.

Factors such as GDP growth, a growing middle class and an increase in non-communicable diseases, combined with too little capacity in the current healthcare system for its population of 1.2 billion people are fuelling this growth.

India has 13 hospital beds per population of 10 000 people, compared to the World Health Organisation’s recommended standard of 35 (and South Africa’s 28). 

In addition, just 25% of India’s population have private healthcare insurance, 13% have public insurance and 85% remain uninsured. About 80% of healthcare services are delivered in the private sector and the 5% wealthiest of the population account for about 17% of all healthcare spending.

Gogate said that despite these problems, India’s healthcare sector had grown.

Business models

“We have a competitive, diverse provider landscape, with healthcare providers at every price point,” said Gogate.

“You’ll find premier hospitals and low cost players often working in the same neighbourhood.”

These providers offered a variety of capabilities and innovative business models to keep prices low: these innovations have a lot to teach to providers in places like South Africa, which has similar challenges. 

“India has shown that if enough people buy different types of healthcare, the system can respond with exciting, compelling solutions,” he said.

He said people needed to throw out the idea that just because it’s cheap healthcare, it’s bad.

“It’s cheap because the stuff that doesn’t matter has been taken out.”

Photo about doctor examining patient from Shutterstock


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