by T. Kalyani on  November 24, 2014 at 3:35 PM Health Watch
Envisioning Better Healthcare in India for the Future Through Collective Innovations
Mr. Sunil Wadhwani, a philanthropist and angel investor based in Pittsburgh, USA, and Chairman and Co-founder of IGATE Corporation USA founded the Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Healthcare or WISH Foundation. Recently, the SCALE Healthcare Innovations summit convened by the WISH Foundation was held in Delhi.

The summit brought together over three hundred national, state, community, and international leaders from government, private sector, and development partners, social enterprises, healthcare innovators, academia and media, who form the healthcare ecosystem, to support the scale up. The goals for the summit included learning how to scale up, promising healthcare innovations capable of changing the healthcare paradigm for the poor and significantly contributing to achieve the commitment of India to ensure health for all. The timing was impeccable as news reports indicate the Union Government's keen interest in inviting private stakeholders under the National Rural Heath Mission.

Addressing the summit, Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, ICMR, said, "We must ensure that affordable technologies benefit a large number of people. As a representative of the government, we assure you our partnership." Niraj Kumar Pawan, an IAS officer and Director of National Health Mission, Rajasthan, while sharing his experiences, said that it was high time we give up on the age old procedures. He also discussed the social and cultural prejudices that affect a girl child in India and the need to tackle these issues adding that every time a girl child is born to a family, a greeting signed by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan is despatched to the home of the newborn. Another one of Rajasthan's initiatives, the mother and child tracking system, which started out on a simple spreadsheet, has been scaled up and undertaken by the National Health Mission. The model, now popularly known as Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS), is being replicated across the country.

A 2012 study by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Industry (FICCI), an association of business organization, and the consultants Ernst and Young, estimated that the universal health coverage of India was feasible in a decade and this required the Government's expense on health to rise to 3.7-4.5 percent of India's GDP. While it is important for the Government to provide primary healthcare facilities to its citizens, the issues of affordability and accessibility should be addressed and resolved. At present, 39 million people are pushed below the poverty line every year because of the unaffordability of healthcare. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the healthcare sector definitely seems like a feasible solution to tackle the burden of expenditure on the poor and the public sector. Sanjeev K Chaudhury, Managing Director, SRL Diagnostics said, "We need to add a fourth pillar to the PPP model, that is, Philanthropy. It is important to provide cost-effective and quality healthcare to the poor."

Some of the key components and aspects discussed in the summit include the following:
  • Innovation in technology and processes is required for the deliverance of inexpensive and quality healthcare services for a rapidly changing India.
  • Scaling up Healthcare Innovations to strengthen Preventive and Primary Healthcare Delivery in India.
  • Bringing out specific action points to address the challenges of scaling up promising healthcare innovations to revitalize primary healthcare delivery in India.
  • An Innovation Showcase where innovators and enterprises displayed their innovations.
  • If quality healthcare services are implemented properly, 42 of every 1000 infants will be prevented from dying before their first birthday and 58 of 1000 infants before their fifth. And an estimated 178 of 100,000 pregnant women will be saved from pregnancy and childbirth related deaths.
  • Path-breaking ideas such as the health ATMs that are automatic kiosk-typed diagnostic center, designed holistically to address primary healthcare requirements were discussed. The health vending machines will have an attached cabin to provide diagnostic services like testing body vitals etc.
ACCESS Health International, Center for Health Market Innovation's (CHMI) partner in India, was present at the summit to collaborate on the SCALE Rajasthan project. With CHMI's support, ACCESS and WISH aim to build relationships between private health providers and government officials for effective public-private partnership formation. Mr. Wadhwani said, "WISH commits to raise a $100 million healthcare innovation fund which would accelerate the scale up of 50-100 innovators over the next 10 years." If the innovative ideas and collaborations of this summit are successful, then the Indian healthcare sector will receive the much-needed improvement that it has been craving for.

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