Sunday, December 10, 2017
Why India needs a Healthcare Regulator?
India, as the leadership and mainstream media claims is on the cusp of a metamorphosis from an under-developed to that of an emerging nation. While this is music to any citizen or People of Indian Origin trying to hoist the nationalistic feelings and fervor, all around, one need to see into the holistic state of affairs from a realistic point of view. Healthcare happens to be the backbone and a necessity for the masses and a country in order to be classified as a developed or even an emerging nation ought to put this sector in order, before moving into other verticals, so as to be labelled as a true emerging nation! Just a few sky scrapers across cities, minuscule portion of the citizen being millionaire, and handful few multinationals bagging international projects or a few brands here and there on the global marketplace, does not make the country an emerging nation, to rub shoulders with their global peers.
India definitely has improved by leaps and bounds when it comes to the healthcare sector and there are lot of talks going around of India being the destination for medical tourism. Some hospitals, notably, the corporate healthcare players are also able to rope in substantial number of foreign patients from South Asia and Middle-east, but does that really mean the sector has got the real facelift, in terms of quality and quantity, resulting in the citizens getting quality treatment from private and public sector healthcare players at the right cost?
On a personal note, yours truly who have worked in the pharmaceutical sector and had interacted closely with the healthcare players of all forms had seen it firsthand. The personal dealings with numerous small, medium and large healthcare players, both from the private and public sectors in Eastern, North-eastern, Southern, Western and Central Indian market, while seeking treatment of family members and acquaintances provided with instances galore that showcased the suffering a common Indian faces in the absence of a regulator in this vital sector. Add to it the high level of ignorance on the part of the patient or his dependents and you can very well understand the demi-god status given to the medicos and the paramedics.
Probing a doctor deep by asking questions often puts some consultant or super-specialties look upon the patient or his dependents with creased foreheads and the moment, jargons are added, there is a common response coming out, are you a doctor? Moreover, at times these professionals think they should not be quizzed about the treatment or on allied areas, just because a layman is not supposed to understand the intricacies of medical science. The perfect topping in this quagmire happens to be the arrogant management of some healthcare players who are leveraging the poor state of affairs in the sector, the absence of a regulatory authority to their own benefit even if it means the end result for the end-user or the customer or the patient proves fatal! There are handful few from these suffering lot who knock the doors of the state governments or the central government, responsible for overseeing the affairs of the health of the citizens and the functioning of the sector, when things go wrong. Thanks to the bottle-necks and red tapes existing in the sector, such cases most of the time fall on deaf ears or partially listening ears, unless of course you are a VVIP or the matter has resonated big time in the national print and electronic media. The presence of a vibrant media though helps poor sufferer to some extent as gross negligence culminating into death or financial and mental harassment get published and circulated through social media and suddenly the so called regulators at the state and the government level turn proactive. However, this momentum continues only till the news is part of the headline and once it fades, so does the fate of the sufferer and the cascade of human suffering of the common India goes back to square one.
Yours truly has handled this situation that resulted in the death of the patient owing to medical negligence, followed by unethical and unexplained billing by the hospital and then to top it up an arrogant hospital management displaying an attitude of caring a damn, till they have been rattled after the issues were escalated to the state and the central government. Periodical follow-up through emails, tweets to high profile ministers and bureaucrats at the state and the central level, political leaders, media are making the necessary noise, even though the general observation is that the mails are being forwarded to the right authorities with the customary messages, “For your necessary action” that has been continuing till the mid of December 2017, right from August 2017, when the showdown started with the death of the patient! The major reason for the case being active with the regulator is the proactive approach adopted by the sufferers, shouting loud for punishment to the culprits and compensation to the victims. The proactive follow-up, however is not easy and out of bound for a common citizen owing to the lack of resources like time, internet, and ability to search and write with evidences to the authorities concerned and then follows-up religiously being done on a periodical basis. To send emails to almost hundreds and thousands of stakeholder responsible for managing the healthcare sector with all evidences as attachments and trail mails, in addition to the related news that makes such instances common happenings all across the country is not a simple task by any standard whatsoever. One need to spend adequate time in researching, assimilating, analyzing, information and then consulting with other doctors and paramedical staff, collating the information and also communicate with the concerned healthcare player, responding to their vibes, requires lot of dedication, commitment and perseverance. The million dollar question is whether it is feasible for a common Indian to fight it out against powerful healthcare brands who wield tremendous influence on everyone, just on their past laurels?
There were issues with the synchronization of the healthcare sector with that of the medical insurance services and the insurance sector related matters. However, the latter were resolved smoothly than the former, partly, due to the presence of Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA). The hospital dealing with the patient could safely cover up their own malaise due to the absence of a healthcare regulatory authority and furthermore, pushed out everything related to insurance to the insurance company, even if meant wrong-doing on the part of the hospital and not the insurance company. The glaring face saving tool due to the absence of a healthcare regulator is evident on the part of the erring hospitals and nursing homes. The ignorant customer has nowhere to do even after his near and dear ones have been killed by the negligent medical treatment.
In the case happening with yours truly, it has helped the concerned hospital management to wake up from the deep slumber and take notice, understand the fact that not everybody can be treated in the same fashion and that not all Indian patients and their dependents are anymore ignorant to the healthcare related nuances. Furthermore, they have also understood the power of social media and internet to make such happenings viral within no time, thereby impacting the brand equity and accreditation received from prestigious authorities. At least a momentary respite for the patients in India as the healthcare players would be careful till the pressure is sustained by the sufferer. Whether the particular case like many others would lead to its logical end, where the culprits are penalized and the victims compensated, depends on the seriousness of the state and central government regulators! Only then India can truly classify herself as an emerging nation! Are the state level and central level healthcare regulators listening and willing to act in the interest of the common citizen?
The details of the patient, the family, the hospital, and the regulators at the state and the central level dealing with the case has been kept confidential. Should you wish to know the specifics with an intention to take this case to the logical end, so as to bring some respite to the suffering of a common Indian, and also voice out for the need of a healthcare regulator having representatives from all the stakeholders, directly and indirectly related to the sector, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A video on the need of Indian Healthcare Regulator can be seen by clicking on the link below-