The healthcare industry in India is projected to reach $372 billion by 2022. While the numbers may seem mind boggling, there is certainly much happening in the Indian healthcare scene.
The burden for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) is rising at a rapid rate and as many as 60% of the global deaths are due to these NCDs like stroke, most cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A majority of these conditions are lifestyle related and preventable, if detected in the early stages of their insidious development. Dr. Vineet Datta, Director, Datar Cancer Genetics says, “cancers of oral cavity and lungs in males and cervix and breast in females account for over 50% of all cancer deaths in India. Advances in biomedicine are able to determine the best treatment approach for some cancers. The shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment regimens that are tailored to individual patients’ needs has begun and is expected to gain greater momentum in coming years.” Likewise, proton beam therapy said to be one of the most superior forms of radiation therapy uses high-energy proton beam for cancer treatment and provides targeted treatment and intensification, unlike other radiation treatment. “It maximises the chance of cure and minimises the adverse effects to the surrounding healthy tissues. Proton therapy is effective against many kinds of cancer, but is particularly effective in challenging cancer sites including tumours affecting the eye and brain, tumours close to the brain stem, spinal cord or other vital organs, head and neck cancers, deep seated abdominal and pelvic cancers, recurrent cancers and paediatric cancers where children and young adults are at a particular risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing,” adds Dr. Rakesh Jalali, Medical Director & Head of Radiation Oncology, Apollo Proton Cancer Centre.
The focus also is to help patients return to a normal life soon. Dr. Sandhya Ravi, Managing Director and Consultant General Surgeon, Prameya Health says, “over the years when medical and social support diminishes and patients have to manage on their own, a program such as SAHAI helps patients to discover the strength within themselves and integrate with the community seamlessly. It helps in addressing these needs in in a holistic manner. The program is run by eminent cancer specialists supported by an eclectic group of yoga therapists, nutritionists, psycho-oncologists, counsellors, spiritual guides, and art therapists.” Cure rates for cancer have increased by over 30% in the last two decades which is a significant achievement in cancer care. Cancer care is being made affordable with 70-80% of cancer medicines cheaper today by 30-40%. “In Medical oncology, traditional chemotherapy is being increasingly replaced by Immunotherapy, Targeted therapy and Cellular therapy. Many cancers can now be treated with only oral pills,” says Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit, Head of Unit, Department of Medical Oncology at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre, Niti Bagh, South Delhi.
Regenerative medicine aims to completely change the face off modern medicine by harnessing the body’s power to heal itself from any disease or trauma with the help of human stem cells and genetic treatments. “Orthopedics is probably the first area where regenerative medicine has shown tremendous promise. Patients are now able to avoid complex surgeries by inserting stem cells into the joints and thus rejuvenating their joints thereby increasing their life span,” says Vipul Jain, CEO, Advancells. One of the biggest advancements in orthopedics in the last 10 years is in molecular biology such as chondrocyte culture. This works in cases when a person damages the cartilage of his/her joint. “This cartilage can get damaged because of injury or fall. So, when it happens in young people, it can lead to arthritis very soon. However, with chondrocyte culture, it is now possible to grow this cartilage in the laboratory and put it back into the patient,” says Dr. Sanjay Desai, Arthroscopy & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.
The emerging trends in dermatology are more towards the aesthetic dermatology and there has been a rise in demand towards non-invasive skin treatments. The use of scientifically derived cosmeceuticals, peptides and growth factors are now present in the market. “These products help in improving the overall wellbeing, skin glow and hair issues. It also helps in reducing the fine line wrinkles by boasting the collagen production. Also peptides which act at the neuro muscular junction are been studied,” says Dr. Pallavi Sule, Dermatologist and Aesthetic Physician. Dr. Vispi Jokhi, CEO and Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Masina Hospital adds, “the major revolution has been the combination therapy utilizing botulinum toxin, fillers, threads, and ulthera. While botulinum toxin and fillers have been available for a long period, ulthera is a US FDA-approved non-surgical device which we call as a ‘time machine’. Through the Ulthera, the ultrasound waves are given to the face, such that there is collagen formation on the face, causing it to become tighter. It is the combined treatment with botulinum toxin, fillers, thread, ulthera, and various laser devices which can give better results than surgery in the space of a few minutes, and results are long-lasting.” Dermatology is a fast growing field of medicine with many new innovations and ongoing research happening on a day to day basis. Dr.Tina Ramachander, Dermatologist, Dr.Tina’s Skin Solutionz avers, “the q-switched laser toning which has gained popularity recently with many celebrities endorsing it. It’s a quick 15 mins procedure with results seen in a day or two and it leaves the skin fresh brighter and ready for that important event without fuss.”
IVF treatments have become a major industry in India, with the IVF market growing at a CAGR of 28% and expected to reach $775 million in 2022. Fertility tech has seen numerous advances in the past few years, enabling better outcomes. The science of fertility treatment continues to advance, with new technologies assisting couples to conceive. “In IVF, AI is used to predict whether an embryo transferred to a woman’s uterus, during the IVF procedure, is likely to progress into a successful pregnancy. This is done through time-lapse imaging microscopy which helps collect data over the length of the embryo’s culture period, and an algorithm to predict the most viable embryo which will provide a successful pregnancy outcome. Chat bots have also become a common play in healthcare,” says Dr. Manish Banker, Medical Director, NOVA IVI Fertility.
The biggest game-changer in the space of healthcare is technology. Emerging health-tech companies have taken the Indian healthcare space to newer heights. “Apps that help you make good food choices, recommend healthy products, track your physical activity and suggest exercises, alert you to drink water, maintain your blood test records – digital has answered most questions,” says Rashida Vapiwala, founder of LabelBlind, a NutriTech product service. Pramod Arehalli C, Co- founder, KnowDi says, “AI has only recently started finding large-scale application in healthcare. It is primarily being used by hospitals to automate administrative tasks, thereby freeing up more time for strategic patient care. At the same time, there are some strategic experiments being conducted in Indian healthcare by AI-powered companies, both startups and tech giants.” Dr. Vikash Kapoor, Vice-Chairman and Group Director – Orthopaedics, Medica Group of Hospitals adds, “the two major exciting areas are Biological and Robotics. Besides this the advancement in cold optics and precision laser technologies have revolutionized the endoscopic procedure for various surgical techniques in fields as varied as Neurosurgery, ENT, Advanced Laproscopy, Endoscopic Gastroenterology, Urology, Gynaecology and of course Orthopedics in the form of Sports surgeries and Arthroscopic surgery. The development of microsugical technologies have revolutionized the hospital work environment and immensely brought down the ALOS (average length of stay).”
Robotic surgeries ensure that recovery times are reduced and more intricate and precise surgeries are carried out easily. “Wearable devices track baseline parameters and are used more in the preventive sector but eventually we foresee this helping out in the acute setting as well. A greater focus will eventually be on personalized medicine, identifying what specific drugs work on an individual. Gene editing technologies, though at their initial phases now, will become more mainstream,” says Dr. Anoop Amarnath, Chief of Clinical Services, Manipal Hospitals. Implementation of digital healthcare can be the next game-changer. Utilizing technology to address systemic issues can help in the growth of the Indian healthcare industry. Dr. Alexander Kuruvilla, Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer, Practo, avers, “digital platforms bring in a degree of efficiency and 360-degree insight into practice management that simply wasn’t available to doctors before. Also, doctors can benefit through completing communication loop with patients and ensure continuity of care through digital follow-ups post clinic visit.”
Almost 80% of India’s 1.3 billion population lack health insurance. The remaining 20% have an average insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakhs. When struck with critical illnesses, the cover is of limited use and patients go into a debt poverty trap by being forced to take loans to fund expenses. “Healthcare crowdfunding to the rescue – Is the most disruptive solution to address this problem as funds raised online is considered as a donation. Therefore, customers do not have to resort to selling homes or mortgaging jewelry out of desperation. Crowdfunding allows people to raise money quickly in a hassle free manner without any payback liability,” says Piyush Jain, Co-Founder and CEO, ImpactGuru.com a healthcare crowdfunding platform. One needs to adopt a healthy lifestyle, eat well, play well and think positive. “Leading an erratic lifestyle leads to hormonal imbalances like stress and anxiety. Maintain a discipline lifestyle. Stress and obesity are two important things a person can improve and regular diagnosis. And don’t follow the internet information, read the information but consult a doctor,” opines Dr. Ravi Gaur, MD Pathology & COO, Oncquest Laboratories.
This story first appeared in Spice Route’s August 2019 story here: