Healthcare in India - Current Challenges & Future Prospects

By: Dr. Shilpa Tatake, Group COO & Unit Head, Jupiter Hospital

After completing her BAMS, Dr. Shilpa pursued her masters in Hospital Management from TISS, Mumbai. As a seasoned healthcare professional having 20+ years of experience in various leadership positions, she has resided over multiple healthcare committees and participated in conferences as speaker.

Women Entrepreneur recently had an opportunity to interact with Dr. Shilpa, wherein she shared her valuable insights on various aspects of healthcare industry in India and navigating the profession as a female leader in the current times. Below are the excerpts from the exclusive interview –

What are your thoughts on the current healthcare landscape in India?

Currently, the healthcare sector in India is in a rapid growth phase, wherein we are facing numerous challenges especially in the last couple of decades. Some of them include keeping-up with healthcare technological advancements, rising cost of healthcare, and maintaining affordability & transparency. Although the private healthcare sector in India caters to larger number of people than the public network, they do not have substantial influence on formulating government regulations and thus face difficulties in complying with the pricings laid-down by government schemes.

Another hurdle is access to healthcare not only in rural, but also in urban areas where patients lack awareness about when to approach a doctor, particularly in the early stage of disease. Not just the private sector, but policy makers, public institutions, government and also patients need to work in tandem to overcome these challenges. Some of the measures that can be implemented are increasing patient awareness, digitization of healthcare services and providing appropriate training to the staff to manage electronic records. Government initiatives such as plans for opening medical colleges at every district level will help in resolving the issue of unfavourable ratio of healthcare professionals to number of patients in India.

How do you stay updated with advancements in medical technology and ensure their effective implementation in a healthcare setting?

Like any other industry, healthcare too is adopting technologies like AI, robotic surgeries, electronic health records and mobile based apps. Being a labour-intensive industry, training the manpower in terms of new medical equipment and electronic health records across all levels plays a crucial role. Healthcare professionals have to keep themselves abreast with all the recent technological advancements by participating in various technology exhibitions, engaging with experts, following industry magazines and exchanging information. They also have to maintain balance between cost and effectiveness, as burdening the patients with extra costs to pursue such advancements is not a sustainable solution.

What are the health measures that need to be taken in 2023? How can we improvise healthcare in Indian rural areas?

In 2023, the government in its Union budget has already increased its healthcare budget allocation to two percent of the GDP. With government initiatives like Ayushman Bharat and National Rural Health Mission, efforts are being made for infrastructure development even at primary healthcare centre level. While urban areas have high concentration of sophisticated hospitals and qualified doctors, semi-urban and rural population suffer from lack of access to quality healthcare. Doctors have recognized the importance of technology especially during COVID, thus increasing the penetration of telemedicine that has significantly improved access to quality healthcare. However, there is still a significant gap between urban rural population in terms of health indicators which might improve with partnership between public and private healthcare players. While the private healthcare providers can offer quality healthcare and technical expertise, government can help for network and infrastructure in rural set up along with the funding.

Explain a few challenges that currently persist in Indian healthcare space.

The first and foremost challenge is making healthcare affordable while still being accessible to all. Another concern is ensuring data protection and security as digitization in healthcare industry has become inevitable. Healthcare institutions need to invest in strong cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive patient information. Also, treating patients as partner in the healthcare ecosystem can build trust through transparent communication regarding treatment options and their costs. Healthcare industry has to be mindful of not losing personal touch with the patients while balancing technological advancements. Furthermore, private hospitals must keep in mind the importance of keeping their treatment costs affordable while deploying latest tech equipment and becoming resource rich so that the whole purpose of their existence is not defeated.

How do you manage your work-life balance as a women leader, and what strategies have you employed to overcome any specific hurdles in the business world?

Although balancing my professional and personal responsibilities becomes difficult at times, the divide between men and women is not that wide in an urban setting. I spend quality time with my family and get involved in my children’s activities as much as possible. But ensuring that I am always available to them when they need me is a task to be mastered. Maintaining a clear communication with family members and helping them understand the gravity of the situation is the key to surviving through tough times like the covid pandemic. Unfortunately, biases and assumptions still prevail in the industry when it comes to women’s capability to lead. However, a positive shift can be seen today as women are rising to leadership positions by breaking barriers and showcasing their mettle. As women, we are blessed with ability of empathy & understanding and are skilled to take decisions which can actually shape the future. Ultimately, gender should not hinder your progress once you are determined and passionate about your goals.