Here are ways in which India can better its healthcare system

The current COVID-19 crisis clearly reflects the lack of India’s ability and its preparedness in handling the demands of a pandemic which has brought our country to its knees. 
In order to respond quickly to the needs of such diseases, India needs to create a capable healthcare model. Here are six strategies:
  1. Strengthen key healthcare constituents
  • Access to healthcare for a large population. For instance: Testing for COVID-19 at a large scale in a short period (2–3 weeks)
  • Coverage in terms of population. For instance: Expanding the number of testing centres, facilities, workforce capacity, and other relevant measures
  • Financial resources mobilisation
  • Implementation at population-level measures such as social-distancing, reduction of overcrowding, wearing a mask, keeping public spaces clean (irrespective socio-economic/educational/gender/geographic spaces)
  • Technological innovations such as contactless screening, robot surveillance, IT in surveillance data collection, use of social media and information/dissemination and communication, big data analytics and hospital capacity enhancement using technology to serve/reach million
2. Stringent Implementation of simple, cost-effective measures such as physical (or social) distancing.
  • Given that India has a multi-layered social strata, it is challenging to enforce these measures due to diverse cultural backgrounds. For instance: The Kumbh Mela was an event that led to transmission of virus. But, on the flipside, it brought awareness among religious groups about the dangers of such groupings during a pandemic. However, this highlights the need to work in consonance with the measures implemented.
3. Need for paradigm shift in approach to healthcare.
  • The pandemic has taught humanity many lessons. But the most stark one being “health is a priority” and can wreak havoc on economies, if neglected. Few other challenges for countries like India exposed its reliance on migrants and their helplessness in getting back home, without transportation.
  • Nations such as China, Italy, Germany, the UK, the US and others too had other challenges, forcing each nation to change the way it perceived health, forcing a shift in healthcare approaches.
4. Need to mobilise health resources/finance at high speed.
  • While the Coronavirus hit the world, every nation began scrambling for personal protective equipment, masks, gloves, disinfectants, temporary shelters, intensive care facilities and others. This highlighted the need for governments and countries to plan ahead to build capacities and stock up on medical equipment and other gear.
  • The Government of India’s delay in paying advances to the vaccine makers in January made it worse for India to have enough vaccines for its entire population. That is a lesson that we need to learn.
  • Further, public healthcare spending needs to be a priority among all states across the country than to be just highlighted in the country’s budget. Additionally, an incremental allocation to the health budget of a state will go a long way in considering both low-cost high-frequency items and high-cost ICU facilities immediately.
5. Empowered Committee/Body for health-related decisions.
  •           Given that a pandemic’s impact doesn’t wait for political will to be coordinated with the availability of financial resources, there is a dire need for the Government of India to pool in healthcare experts and professionals and form a constitutional committee that takes (scientific) evidence-based healthcare decisions from time to time.
6. Preparedness for early response is most crucial.
  •          It is appropriate to respond to healthcare measures at the early stages of the virus rather than implement measures at later stages of the virus where containing transmission becomes challenging. Therefore, being prepared and nipping the virus in the bud is a better way to handle it to avoid fatalities and rapid spread.
Addressing Healthcare in a post-COVID world
COVID-19 should be viewed as a wake-up call for India, twice! What this requires is a strong political will and the support of the social and healthcare sectors to address the current crisis while building resilience (as well as indigenous capabilities) against such pandemics in the future.
Most importantly, preventive measures in India should be seen as a new, hygenic way of life at an individual level. Additionally, India also requires an improved strategic health communication and resource mobilisation at the state and national levels so that the majority of the population receives timely healthcare services to avert fatalities.
The future of healthcare in India needs a convergence of multiple sectors along with coordination and prior planning.

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