Healthcare: Lessons from the pandemic & how to prepare for the future
Every adversity sows the seed of opportunity but whether it is leveraged depends on how the experiences are moulded to face the next challenge. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the healthcare sector, which is bang in the middle of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the spread of the virus has brought the global economy down to its knees, it has also reminded everyone that different spokes of the healthcare sector must work together. Be it diagnosis (read pathology), basic and emergency protection (read PPE kits and medical devices like ventilators) or treatment (drug research, medicines and hospitals), all the sub-segments of the industry need to function without disruption.
Not surprisingly, healthcare has stood out in attracting private investments. The first nine months of this year have already surpassed the $1-1.5 billion worth of private equity and venture capital money that the industry has been pulling in every year, according to data collated by VCCEdge.
If the current trends continue, the healthcare sector may also buck the broader trend where the number of companies attracting capital has declined, to at least match—if not improve—the tally of previous years where, on average, two healthcare firms were getting funded every week.
The pandemic has also shown the inadequacies of public and private healthcare delivery ecosystems. The diagnostics infrastructure took months to reach an optimal level to test infected patients. The hospital infrastructure faces a serious shortage of beds to cater to even those who are ready to pay a marked-up charge. Most critically, the process of drug and vaccine development is far from satisfactory. Some programmes that intersect in the public-private domain in India, like the government’s Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme, have been moving in the right direction. The number of patients under the scheme has doubled in its second year and half a million people have reportedly availed its benefits for Covid-19 alone.
But we are running behind in creating a national health stack and a national health register to maintain digitised records of citizens. Once in motion it could complement the decades-old, low-cost healthcare delivery systems like telemedicine, which got a leg-up in the last few months, for more effective and faster impact.
Overall, the pandemic has proven that both public and private institutions must invest more in the healthcare industry, and effectively use technology to face such a shock in the future. It has also shown the need for swifter business decisions with respect to product planning (devices); development of low-cost diagnostics processes; efficient hospital infrastructure utilisation without usurious charges that feed distrust; and more research for drug and vaccine development to tackle newer strains of viral and bacterial diseases.
To discuss the experiences of various stakeholders and learn the lessons to face challenges of the future, VCCircle is organising the 12th edition of the Healthcare Investment Summit on December 11, 2020 on a virtual platform.