Dr Sreenivasan Narayana, the chief executive and founder of DocTree, a Bangalore-based company that connects patients and healthcare providers in India through an online platform, talks about the affordable healthcare sector.
Is there enough affordable health care to meet the demands of patients in India?
Not really. Affordable health care basically means choosing health care at a price that suits you. In India, more than 75 per cent of the population pays out of pocket. Most of the purchases are unplanned and done as a grudge purchase – not something you would love to spend money on. Many a time, the family of the patient has to sell assets. With that being the case, affordability plays a major role in the decision-making of a patient’s choice of health care. The middle-class growth story in India is well-known. There is active growing consumerism among patients because of increased affordability. Patients no longer see doctors as “gods” and are more demanding. The mismatch on demand supply is mainly because of information asymmetry — where are the doctors, what are the treatment options, at what different price points can this be treated, and so on.
Did the need for affordable treatment in India play a role in the setting up of DocTree?
Yes. We bring both healthcare providers and patients on to a common platform and enable information sharing. DocTree aims at allowing patients to chose health care at a price that suits them. We believe that the manner in which health care is being consumed and marketed in India today can be improved dramatically if a patient can actively participate in his medical care decision. Like any other major decisions in his life where he weighs the pros and cons, he should be able to carefully make choices and decisions pertaining to his health, including the approximate expenses, the doctor he will meet, the procedure he will be subjected to.
What do you think should be done to improve access to affordable health care in India?
The prices of essential medications have to come down. Subsidies for import of quality equipments and technology should be extended and more budgetary allocation should happen towards health care. Apart from these, the consumers should have the confidence to make choices just like they do in any other markets and price transparency should be encouraged to allow consumers to plan for their unique needs.
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