India, today, stands the second-highest in the number of COVID-19 cases across the globe, and the third-highest in the number of deaths due to the pandemic. There are reports on hospitals being overburdened with patients, shortage of physicians, scarcity of protective gear for healthcare workers, and hospitals delaying treatment of other critical health conditions. These issues call for the need for a robust healthcare system that can meet the challenges in the Indian healthcare sector in the Post-pandemic period, or what we call a ‘New Normal’.
POST-PANDEMIC CHANGES IN THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
- The surge in Healthcare Costs: After enduring the fear and stigma associated with COVID-19 for so long, rigorous infection control practices such as the use of disinfectants, sanitizers, masks, and other protective gear will be continued by the medical staff, further piling up the healthcare costs.
- Demand for treatment of additional healthcare conditions: The worry resides primely in the challenge of handling the demands for the treatment of non-communicable diseases delayed during the pandemic. According to a survey by WHO, almost 40% of people recovering from COVID-19 have fallen victim to other non-communicable diseases such as chronic respiratory disorders, diabetes, neurological, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular diseases. Owing to these healthcare conditions, there would arise an additional need for diagnostic equipment and hospital beds in the country.
- Dysfunctional equipment: Various medical equipment has been rendered dysfunctional due to postponement of elective surgeries and reduction in OPD patients. This would further lead to an increase in device repair costs and new equipment procurement costs.
- Sudden reduction in Customer Demand: With private sector hospitals rapidly racing towards e-procurement platforms for meeting their medical supply needs during the pandemic, suppliers of the medical device industry have met with serious complications than initially anticipated. For most of them, they have lost out on revenue in this period due to nil online visibility, generating a permanent loss and a threat to the survival of their businesses.
- Demand for advanced technologies and inventions: Hospitals have shifted their focus to investing in advanced tech support for patient care. COVID-19 has shown that when the imports got disrupted, devices shortage was observed. Local manufacturing companies across the country will be more in light, and so all new MedTech innovations can be brought to market quickly.
- The need to Shift to a Pan India Focus: After struggling to flatten the pandemic curve, remote places in the country are facing a healthcare accessibility crisis. Most suppliers/distributors in India networks only Tier 1, Tier 2, and metro cities, lacking connections with healthcare facilities in many other rural and urban areas. This leads to a lack of adequate facilities to accommodate the continuous flow of patients, turning the situation alarmingly grim.
OPPORTUNITIES IN THE NEW NORMAL
The private healthcare sector in the country constitutes more than 60 percent of total beds with 60 percent of total inpatient care and around 80% of total doctors. Most of the secondary and tertiary care hospitals need to resume their operations (both critical and non-emergency) immediately, so as to reduce the dual effect of rising costs and falling revenues.
The adoption of an E-Procurement system is an efficient way for the Indian healthcare sector to bounce back from the after-effects of COVID-19. Various online portals are working today towards creating a leaner supply chain between medical device vendors and healthcare facilities. Let us take the example of Medpick. With 10+ categories of medical equipment and devices, this online medical supply store is striving to bring in newer equipment, launch new MedTech innovations, access and manage hospital inventory, and facilitate repair and maintenance of existing hospital inventory, all at minimal costs. With 100+ satisfied vendors, Medpick is also supporting medical device manufacturers and distributors to reach out to Hospitals, Retail Pharmacies, and Laboratories nationwide.
In short, the post-pandemic period would bring a ripple of changes into the healthcare industry in the form of new healthcare developments, and getting prepared for it ahead of time is the only way to sustain healthcare accessibility and growth.