This article originally appeared on Livemint.com.
With the Union budget due in a few days, we hope the government will showcase a plan for transforming and improving the health of its citizens. Redefining India’s healthcare system is essential. Beyond having a clear vision, priorities and road map, we need to address three key enablers—talent, technology and funding—in an integrated manner.
India needs to resolve both quantity and quality issues related to talent. It produces an insufficient number of medical graduates to meet demand and currently faces a shortage of around 2 million doctors and 4 million nurses. To make matters worse, the existing talent is highly skewed towards a few states and urban areas. However, with rapid growth expected over the coming decade, estimates show healthcare services will require an additional 15 million workers by 2025. It is, therefore, imperative that the government, together with other stakeholders, focus its strategy on the following:
Increase supply of professionals: Prioritizing areas with critical shortages of healthcare professionals and public health workers is essential. For example, with high maternal mortality, India is critically short on obstetricians and gynaecologists—0.02 per 1,000 people compared to 0.13 in the US. A simple first step for the government is to identify areas with similar shortages.
However, governmental efforts alone are not enough; private investment and innovative public-private partnerships (PPPs) are required to increase the talent supply. These have already seen success, but the government needs to further ease regulations around private investment in healthcare education and overcome the trust deficit between the public and private sectors.