Observing that the country's healthcare sector faces many challenges, a top Indian corporate leader has emphasised on the need of greater co-operation between India and the US in this area to transform healthcare delivery through Information Technology.
"The three biggest challenges India faces in the healthcare sector are: the paucity of hospital beds for people (1 bed for 1050 people, as against 1 bed for 250 people in the US); the lack of skilled health human resources; and the rise in both infectious and non-communicable diseases," Dr Prathap Reddy, chairman of the Apollo Group of Hospitals said.
Speaking at an interactive session, 'US and India: Innovating Health Care' organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Reddy pointed out that India is facing alarming numbers of cases of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
For example, the number of diabetes cases in India, earlier projected at 36 million by 2020, has already surpassed 75 million.
Soon, one out of every 5 diabetic patient in the world will be Indian, he said.
For cancer, in particular, Reddy mentioned expansion of screening services as an area in need of great attention. Referring to the Apollo group's own efforts in providing healthcare, he highlighted that the hospitals are being able to perform coronary bypass surgeries at a cost of $3000 for middle and lower income patients, and maintain the cost over the past 20 years.
Pointing to the huge cost differential, he stressed that comparable surgeries in India cost one-tenth of the price in the US. High quality healthcare and cost benefit is hence a major priority area, he said.
The Apollo chief acknowledged the tremendous contributions made by research organisations in the US in diagnosis, methodology, innovation, research and technology in the healthcare sector and called for greater collaboration between India and the US.
Reddy called the healthcare challenge 'solvable', and a key area where the US and India can work together. In particular, he emphasised the need for new tools to transform healthcare delivery, such as through Information Technology and lauded the ongoing efforts in the US to digitize healthcare data through Electronic Medical Records, while hoping that such techniques would be brought to India as well. Applying existing innovations from US, Europe and other parts to countries like India is thus critical.