Strengthening health insurance in eye care segment can change the entire demography of ophthalmology in India, shares Dr Debasish Bhattacharya, Chairman & Managing Director, Disha Eye Hospital with Subhajit Bhattacharya of Elets News Network (ENN)
How important is ophthalmology segment in Bengal?
With the invention of modern technologies the entire arena of ophthalmology has gained a new momentum and established a strong service oriented economy with in healthcare segment. The penetration of eye care industry is extremely good in Bengals healthcare market. The reach of the ophthalmological surgeries has crossed the urban territory and touched upon the remotest corners of the country as well as the state. Being an industry insider Im pretty hopeful about the future of this industry. Im expecting a value growth of 10 per cent and numerical growth of 10 per cent in the coming few years.
The ophthalmology industry has not grown in an organised way in Bengal. Your views.
Currently all the players which are related to this industry are looking forward to a growth of 30 per cent in the coming few years. Many sub specialties are dependent on NGOs and other small unorganised players. The absence of organised effort is not possible as industry insiders believe that it is easy to organise this subspecialty in small units. This is probably the only medical stream where a small town doctor can stand up to a big institution which is there in the market. The individual skill set level in this segment is extremely good and reproducible. Even the entire tertiary care can be reproduced by a person who is working in this field for the last 10 to 15 years. Because of this challenge the corporates have not involved in this health domain. Regionally, small players are still ruling the market of ophthalmology.
How is your organisation bridging the gap between rural and urban health care?
The rural population of the country is still devoid of the minimum healthcare facilities. Balancing between maintaining quality, cost and reaching out to the lowest strata of the society is the biggest challenge which the entire healthcare industry is combating at the moment. We divide our resources and utilise to the fullest, thus we balance between cost, quality and we reach our target customer. Skilling workers and using them in the best possible way and also looking at the numerical dividends and looking for quantity turned Disha Eye Hospital into a cost effective and customer friendly eye care institution. The entire health care industry has evolved over time.
How have Disha Eye care hospitals encouraged the growth of PPP models in Bengal?
The awareness towards the vision related ailments are minimum within the society. The government and private both should facilitate the awareness campaigns which are related to eye care. The PPP model can be encouraged in awareness building. The Disha Eye Hospital is currently working with several government institutions such as RG Kar Medical College and also with other organization which are under the government canopy.
The strengthening of the insurance related infrastructure can change the entire demography of the ophthalmology in India. If every Indian pays 100, then all the treatments related to this branch of healthcare can come under the umbrella of health insurance. The ophthalmology related insurance market has reached 8000 crore and the Rashtriya Swasth Beema Yojana (RSBY) has gained some promising results within a very short span of time.
Do you think digitisation is possible in healthcare? Can government walk the talk?
Over the past few years ophthalmology has been digitised massively and there are multiple electronic interfaces which are there in this stream of health care. The diagnosis in eye care has gained a mammoth boost because of modernisation and digitisation. Tele ophthalmology is used in the field of diagnostics but treatment has to be done by a doctor. The digitisation will improve the overall scene of eye care in the country .
How is Disha Eye Hospital sensitising the citizens about the different eye care related ailments? Are people of Kolkata eager to donate their eyes after death?
The City of Joy has lost its battle to diabetes, thats what most of the doctors feel. Presently there is a massive rise in the diabetic retinopathy, an eye ailment which is closely related to diabetic disorder. Also diseases like glaucoma and age related eye ailments are plaguing the city at the moment. The Disha Eye Hospital has been continuously trying to address to these eye disorders and trying to give the patients proper and smarter eye care, though their modernised systems.
Today, the Bengals ophthalmology segment is facing massive challenges from Nepal as this country has developed a very strong system of cornea treatment and that is attracting several patients from the border areas of India
The awareness related to eye donations is 100 per cent in Bengal which is quite encouraging for all of us. As per reports, the eye banks have solved several cornea related problems and successfully corked the rise of blindness in Bengal over the past few years.
What is the ratio of patients coming from neighboring countries and states for the eye care industry of Bengal?
The entire eye care ecosystem of Bengal largely depends on the inflow of patients from the other neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Bhutan. Today, the Bengals ophthalmology related industry is facing massive challenges from Nepal as this country has developed a very strong system of cornea treatment and that is attracting several patients from the border areas of India. Nepal today has some of the best hospitals in eye care and they are doing more than one lakh cataract surgeries.
Do you think there is crunch of manpower in ophthalmology segment?
Most of the hospitals in Bengal often complain about manpower crunch which is also restricting the growth and spread of the healthcare industry of Bengal, but in ophthalmology the scene is little different. The industry has ample manpower which is well compensated and thats why the industry is growing in full swing. To give healthcare a push a proper inflow of manpower with proper skill set is the need of the hour.