Making in India for Global Health – CII think-tank brainstorms on the next frontiers for health systems

New Delhi:  CII brought together the finest minds in Indian Healthcare to discuss and deliberate upon the ‘Next Frontier for Health Systems’, focusing on the very relevant theme of “Making in India for Global Health.” As the Medical Device Industry currently contributes to approximately 5% of the overall healthcare sector and more alarmingly total import of medical devices is more than 75% of the total medical device sales in India. This is an area of concern that highlights India’s import dependence and in turn its global-dependence in dealing with pandemics. The eminent panel discussed the ‘post lockdown down new normal’, the need to be reimagine Healthcare delivery.

Dr Shubnum Singh, Advisor to the CII National Healthcare Council, who is also the Governing Board Member of the Health Sector Skills Council cited that the fundamental problem is the episodic nature of our public health responses. It is often observed that health issues needed to escalation to being a national security concern for drastic measures, to improve the system, to be undertaken. Ultimately, we must never come to the stage where we need to decide between life and livelihood for the citizens.

Lauding the excellent work that the Government of India has undertaken with regard to capacity building and the provision of guidelines for home isolation amid the Covid19 pandemic, Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman CII National Council on Healthcare, CMD, Medanta – The Medicity, also highlighted how the indigenous industry has risen to the occasion with regard to manufacturing of PPE gear, hand and surface sanitizers, pharmaceutical products and ventilators. This latent sector needs encouragement and the focus must be on an end-to-end manufacturing for every product.

A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not apply to healthcare value chains, opined, Dr Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and MD, Biocon Limited as she emphasized that in order to see Make in India brought to light, capital must be made accessible for Indian organizations to take advantage of the demand presented with regard to vaccinations and testing. She spoke at length on the importance of not just reinstating the 150% weighted tax deductions for R&D, but also increase the same to 200%-250%. Focus on Quality is critical to transforming India into a global manufacturing hub, be it medical equipments, vaccines or pharmaceutical products.

Health crises such as the Covid 19 pandemic have exposed the inherent weakness in the Medical Technology industry in India. Chairman, CII Medical Technology Division & MD, Poly Medicure Limited, Mr. Himanshu Baid cited the urgent need for at least four to five Medical Technology Zones to be developed to world-class standards and specifications. These specific zones need to cater for specialized equipment. R&D in medtech must be incentivized and private equity needs to flow in for growth of the sector. The inter-relatedness of the healthcare continuum demands convergence of many sectors. Despite this very obvious need, we continue to work in silos. This crisis brings forth the criticality of having a single window comprising of different nodal ministries for easing the business of the med tech sector.

Mr Gerd Hoefner, Managing Director, Siemens Healthcare Private Limited discussed how healthcare will become more digital with time. This progress will not only be seen in the use of Artificial Intelligence, but also Virtual Reality and Medical Internet of Things with precise decision making using technology becoming more pivotal. There will be a paradigm shift in treating patients with the focus on the individual becoming prominent.

Mr Nalinikanth Gollagunta, President & CEO, GE Healthcare stated the fundamental challenge is that public health is a national security concern and there is an imminent need to spend more in specific targeted areas. Moving forward, all that is manufactured in the healthcare continuum needs to adhere to a standardized quality benchmark. He also spoke of the importance of different segments i.e. academia, IT and digital to converge to create an ecosystem. He emphasized that the efforts for indigenous manufacturing must be end to end. Citing examples from his experience in manufacture of ICU ventilators, he spoke of the need to focus on ancillary industry for components such as valves, sensors, magnets etc. Focus on world-class standards and quality would enable Indian industry to tap into the global markets.

Mr Vishwaprasad Alva, MD, Skanray Technologies Pvt Ltd emphasized on the importance of having a strong R&D base within India coupled with a robust setup for basic research and a sturdy supply chain. Mr Chhitiz Kumar, Business Leader, Philips – Precision Diagnosis & Connected Care lamented the fact that the country has not invested enough in medtech in past decades. The lack of action in increasing the proportion of health expenditure to GDP has led to minimal investment in public health. Time is now right to change that mindset.