Budget 2020: Give boost to digital healthcare

Budget 2020: Give boost to digital healthcare to increase accessibility

By Dr. Azad Moopen

1. The Indian Budget should focus on increasing public spending on healthcare, considering India’s demographics, growing population and increasing disease burden. The Budget of 2019-20 saw Rs62, 398 crore outlay for the healthcare sector which was just 1% of GDP. This should be increased to 2.5% or around Rs150,000 crore to drive the health sector fast forward. Along with the private spend of 1.5% the total GDP percent shall go to an acceptable 4%. In developed countries it is 10% and in the USA it is 18% of the GDP. This will help in making healthcare accessible to marginalized populations.

2. There is a requirement for a viability gap funding by the government for smaller hospitals in Tier 2 and 3 cities by the government to increase the provider base for Ayushman Bharat. There is also a requirement for increasing the package rates of Ayushman Bharat for more hospitals to take this up and make the program a success.

3. Focus on increasing the number of healthcare professionals as the doctor: patient ratio is 1: 1,445 against the WHO recommended 1: 1,000. Government should ease the rules and regulations for establishing more medical teaching and training institutions to produce more medical professionals to fill the gap. The recent decision to allow medical colleges by joint venture between trusts and companies is a welcome step with the PPP model attached to government hospitals. The establishment of National Medical Commission (NMC) aims to address the skill gaps but more clarity on increasing UG and PG seats should be brought in.

4. The government should give a boost to digital healthcare to increase accessibility. Although the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) is a step in the right direction, there needs to be further action and investment for developing infrastructure for electronic health records, for data portability, privacy and security. Telemedicine connectivity between the Primary Health Centers, Taluk Hospitals, District Hospitals and Medical Colleges must be increased to provide expert opinion  in the peripheral centers.

5. Compulsory rural service for two years after MBBS and PG doctors and other para medical graduates with higher pay scales supported by government should be rolled out to get more doctors to the rural areas.

NRI related suggestions for Indian Budget

1. It will be a welcoming move by the Central Government if a Central NRI University can be started in Kerala which has the highest density of NRI population. Apart from mainstream subjects in Under Graduate, Post Graduate, Medical, Engineering, Management etc., this university should have focus on the hi-tech digital subjects like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning etc. which will give huge opportunity for jobs in the future, worldwide. There should also be stress on Skill Development and Vocational courses focusing on employment of graduates and post graduates. University should also have association with foreign universities in frontier areas of technology which will help in exposure of students to the latest trends happening worldwide. The seats in this university be reserved for NRIs on the basis of merit among them. This will help in fulfilling the long-lasting request from NRIs for reservation in the various UG, PG and professional courses.

2. NRIs are contributing huge amount for nation building and are source for foreign currency remittance. It will be advisable to offer a dollar denominated Bond with high yields for the NRIs to invest as a safe and assured return instrument. This will also help to address the Governments requirement for foreign currency inflow.

3. There is long pending requirement for the controlling of airfares during peak seasons to foreign countries especially to the GCC countries. This rates almost become double during this period and produces significant strain especially when NRIs travel with families. Govt should cap the increase in the air fares during the peak season by suitable method.

(Author is Founder Chairman & Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare)