Medical infrastructure landscape of India
Healthcare services in India are undergoing a paradigm shift. The infrastructure, healthcare workers, national and public health policies are seeing an important trend towards improving outcomes. Infrastructure is being created in such a way that it will help patients recover early, and also provide good working environment for doctors and healthcare workers. While health may not be everything, however everything else is nothing without health!
It is an expectation of the population that the government provides them with uniform healthcare at an affordable price. The success of this has been far from reality in rural areas, where perhaps primary healthcare centres have been successful, but speciality care is still a dream come true for rural India. Even in the urban areas, the vast diversity of population in socio-economic sense, makes it difficult for the public sector to fulfil the demand. This has led to private healthcare lending a hand by filling in the gap, to slowly establishing themselves as centre of excellence in delivery of healthcare along with improved outcomes. However, quality comes at a reasonable cost, which for a country like India, not many can afford to avail. The insurance sector while growing rapidly has not been able to bridge the divide and often the patient or his family have to pay from their own pockets or savings.
Infrastructure development has occurred at a phenomenal pace; right from the development of hospitals, safer for patients, efficient workplace to improve manpower output and to increase operational efficiency of healthcare space, infrastructure has been the core of it. Hiring efficient and trained doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals has been a simultaneous process. There has been a shortage of skilled manpower across the board, but there is significant improvement as compared to what it was several years ago.
One agenda to all of this development is centred on a common destination which is ‘improved patient outcome’. So the destination is common for all – good outcome, but how we reach the destination could be modified. The best analogy which one can give is our Indian Railways. Surprised!! The Indian Railways put in a lot of infrastructure and effort in safety of rail travel, however, actually to the traveller it offers different class of comfort. From an unreserved compartment, to the reserved sleeper coach, to the luxurious air-conditioned compartment offering sleeper to a private cabin. Thus all travellers are travelling towards a common destination, but their journey experience is different.
Indian private health care has evolved on the similar principles. The doctors, nurses and other staff who treat patients do not differentiate between what type of service patient is availing from the hospital, e.g. is a he a general ward or a private suite patient. The same doctor delivers top quality health care uniformly to all patients; common destination – good patient outcome. Similarly, the infrastructure and technology needed to provide this care is also the same e.g. operation rooms, CT scan machines, laboratory test etc., are used for all patents. So the only difference is in the perceived comfort factor which patient opts for and chooses to avail in the hospital. This form of system has integrated service and hospitality industry within the healthcare industry. The synergy is so strong that patients often relate their good or poor hospital experience to the service and hospitality part rather than the actual healthcare delivery aspect.
The fear is, have we created an illusion for ourselves that we provide good service and hospitality, and then the actual health care part just follows? The answer is no, we still have to keep the destination in sight that is good patient outcome, and then rally all other things around it. In the day and age where luxurious hospitals are becoming the norm, big infrastructure is looked as quality; I think we should not forget the destination. Quality healthcare can be delivered even in a small infrastructure, like a small hospital, as long as quality is the centre of attention. It is our duty as healthcare providers to make people understand the difference between quality service and quality healthcare.