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The Future Beckons: India on the cusp of a healthcare revolution

GE HealthCare’s NEW HORAIZON 2.0 asked thought-provoking questions about the promise of technology and the future of Indian healthcare!

January 27, 2023 / 05:30 PM IST

While India's healthcare sector still has a long way to go in providing easy access to quality, affordable healthcare to the Indian public, the pandemic showed us that when push comes to shove, the system can stretch to accommodate vast challenges.

Thanks to the launch of the COWIN app, for instance, India's Covid-19 vaccine roll out was exemplary. In a country of 1.4 billion people, even at a time of vaccine shortages, the roll out prioritized those with the greatest risk. There were no strings to pull, no connections to draw on. Simply wait your turn, book your slot, and go. No queues at the vaccine centres either.

India's healthcare sector also had other wins to report: a near overnight adoption of telemedicine, the National Digital Health Mission, and great strides in Make In India. All of which, combined with high smartphone and internet penetration are changing the way Indians perceive and receive healthcare.

India is also emerging as a global hub for the manufacture of medical devices, and increasingly becoming one of the world's most important medical tourism destinations. New-age technologies like AI and robotics are also improving accuracy and early diagnosis, in addition to extending the reach of our limited medical personnel into far flung corners of the country, creating enormous potential for remote treatment.

GE is at the forefront of these technologies and has been a key player in the Indian healthcare industry. In order to help frame the narrative, GE HealthCare joined hands with Moneycontrol for the NEW HORAIZON 2.0 webinar, bringing together experts from across the healthcare spectrum for a focused two-part discussion: How India can emerge as a global hub for manufacturing of medical devices; and How health tech inevitably optimizes healthcare practices, enhances patient-doctor communication and improves patient outcomes with precision at the core of care. 

Making India Global MedTech Hub

In the first session, Paromita Chatterjee moderated a spirited discussion between Dr Shravan Subramanyam, Managing Director, Wipro GE HealthCare; Dr Sahajanand Prasad Singh, President, Indian Medical Association; Sunil Khorana, CEO and MD, BPL Medical Devices Ltd; and Girish Krishnamurthy, MD and CEO, Tata Medical and Diagnostics Ltd on what India needs, to emerge as one of the top five medical devices manufacturers in the world.

Dr Subramanyam opened the discussion with the assertion that growth will come not just with investments in infrastructure, but by building skills and capabilities to develop new products for the Indian market, and subsequently, global markets as well. Dr Singh too, stressed on the need for greater innovation to stay ahead of the curve, instead of simply following in the footsteps of other manufacturers. He also stressed on the need for frugal innovation to create India centric versions of technology that already exists in other parts of the world.

Mr Khurana had a different view. He expressed the need to differentiate medical devices from pharma, particularly in the context of regulatory frameworks. His recommendations included the formation of a new vertical under the aegis of the Ministry of Health that can help drive the creation of an ecosystem focused on the specific needs of the industry. Agreeing with Mr Khurana, Dr Krishnamurthy added that India has the scientific power to create devices for the world, but the regulatory framework needs to keep pace, so the world understands that Indian products aren't just cost effective, but also deliver on international quality standards.

Dr Krishnamurthy also stressed the need to bear in mind India's disease portfolio, so that the investments in infrastructure, skill, capability and regulation enable us to meet our domestic demands first. He sketched out a model that would help bring care to a larger number of people through a distributed model that uses technology to bridge the gaps of geography and affordability.

HealthTech: Enabling Precision Healthcare

In the second session, Paromita engaged with Dr R.S Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority, Girish Raghavan, Vice President Engineering, GE HealthCare; Dr HS Chhabra, Indian Spinal Injury Centre; Dr H Sudarshan Balal, Chairman, Medical Advisory Board, Manipal Hospitals Group; Professor Dr Rajib Dasgupta, Chairperson, CSMCH, JNU and Managing Editor,  Indian Journal of Public Health; and Dr K Hariprasad, President-Hospitals Division, Apollo Hospitals in a discussion that spanned India's digital health tech stack, a personal story about precision healthcare, and the promise of Ayushman Bharat when it comes to both preventive and reactive medical care.

Dr Sharma kicked off the discussion by outlining the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission. He explained how the framework gives medical professionals the freedom to use their own apps, while connecting to a larger framework that allows them to see the longitudinal health history for their patients. He also talked about what makes this framework unique - the data for each patient belongs to the patient and is consent driven. No large technology company can claim ownership of this data. Moreover, the data is distributed, and hence, doesn't reside with the government, contrary to popular belief.

He outlined how this interoperable, interconnected framework would also create opportunities for other applications and systems to scale. It is a uniquely Indian solution - with enough scale to serve 1.4 billion people, and enough interoperability to bridge the divides of geography, language, and operational size of the various medical facilities that connect to it. Dr Chopra chimed in, pointing out the potential of leveraging Ayushman Bharat to drive improvements in precision medicine - both outcomes and safety, when individualizing treatment.

Dr Hariprasad then shared his own personal story, encompassing his journey of treatment and recovery from cancer, using precision medicine. He firmly believes that the future of healthcare lies in precision medicine. He also endorsed the promise of telemedicine, and gave examples of how, during COVID, e-ICUs had been set up in remote areas to provide care through nurses on the ground, while doctors consulted and monitored remotely.

Girish Raghavan drew attention to the wasted productivity that results from incorrect and delayed diagnosis. Given the paucity of trained medical professionals in India, this is a double whammy for hospitals and patients alike. While he too, lamented the lack of trained medical professionals, he sees immense possibilities arising from digital technologies that allow remote and virtual treatments, bringing care far beyond Primary and Secondary care centres, particularly in the monitoring phase of treatments. Dr Chhabra expressed confidence in telemedicine and provided examples of various models used across the globe that could be suited to the Indian context.

Prof Dr Dasgupta, however, feels that technology can only go so far in addressing our physician shortage. He believes greater public investment is necessary to not just build much needed infrastructure, but also to build skill. He also pointed out that the sector needs greeter regulation. He predicts that public private partnerships in the tertiary care sector, alongside stronger regulation and infrastructure building will propel India into the future.


The Indian Healthcare sector is on the cusp of an exciting new era powered by technologies that will give us a much bigger bang for our buck, while also improving patient outcomes. But it doesn't come without its challenges. Technology is a strong enabler, but it needs to be backed by the right regulatory frameworks, infrastructure and a wider talent pool (both on the engineering and medical side) to bring the promise of quality, accessible, affordable healthcare beyond cities, to the Indian heartlands.

How we navigate this sea change will have implications for Indian healthcare, for decades to come. Conversations like these help in creating context, illuminating the paths before us, and navigate us towards the greater good.

For more details, watch the webinar here:

Moneycontrol journalists were not involved in the creation of the article

Tags: #Features #GE
first published: Jan 27, 2023 03:25 pm