Universal Health Coverage in India

Universal Health Coverage in India

News: Expanding Universal Health Coverage is a complex task, however leveraging data and digital technology can help streamline the process.

What is Universal Health coverage?
 Universal health coverage (UHC) means that all people have access to the full range of quality health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship. 
 The Indian Constitutional provisions (Article 39E, 42, 47) mandate the State to secure workers’ health, improve living standards, and enhance public health.
 Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 aims to achieve universal health coverage

Challenges in providing Universal Health Coverage in India
Inequitable Access to Health Insurance: Lowest health insurance coverage among households under the underprivileged sections.
Inadequate Finance: India’s current health expenditure stands at approximately 3.2% of its GDP, which is lower than the average of around 5.2% observed among Lower-and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).
 Shortage of manpower.
Shortfall in Financial protection: Despite several healthcare schemes available, high out of pocket expenditure particularly in urban areas leaves people spending more on healthcare than budgeted. 
 Inclusion and Exclusion Errors as far as eligible households are concerned. 
Inadequate infrastructure: Shortage of specialists doctors, lower bed density, more hospital beds available in urban areas (72%) as compared to 28% in rural areas. 

Government of India initiatives to tackle healthcare crisis:
 Ayushman Bharat: A study in 2021 found the scheme is associated with a 21% decline in out-of-pocket health expenditure.
 National Health Mission (NHM): aims to provide accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare to rural and underprivileged populations. Utilization of public health facilities for institutional deliveries increased from 56% to 69% in rural areas by 2019.
 The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and the Essential Diagnostics Lists to ensure availability of essential medicines and The National Pharma Pricing 
Authority (NPPA) is set up to monitor the availability of drugs, identify shortages, if any, and to take remedial steps.
 As part of India’s G20 presidency, WHO launched the Global Initiative on Digital Health to boost investments and facilitate international health exchange.

What is the need of the hour?
Role of AI
 Diagnostics: One of the key areas where AI can make a significant impact is in diagnostics. AI-powered tools can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnoses, leading to faster treatment decisions and better patient outcomes. 
 AI can also help predict disease outbreaks, analyse health-care data, and expediting health-care procedures, and revolutionise drug discovery process to ensure personalized healthcare.

Expand the role of Private sector
 Expanding PFHIs would entail bringing a large chunk of the private sector under the public fold. Multifaceted nature of modern health challenges requires multilateral and synergistic coalitions involving both the public and private sectors.

 It facilitates remote consultation and diagnosis, enabling patients in rural and remote areas to access healthcare services. National telemedicine service of India, eSanjeevani achieved 8 crore teleconsultations in 2022.
Mobile Health
 mHealth is an emerging concept involving the utilization of mobile devices and technology for health services, such as appointment scheduling, remote monitoring, and medication reminders.

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