As the theme of World Health Day 2021 is ‘Building a Fairer, Healthier World’ post-Covid-19, Mrinmoy Bhattacharjee, Assistant Editor, Elets Technomedia Pvt Ltd, speaks with these healthcare leaders to know what lessons they have drawn from the pandemic and how their professions, companies and the industry is being re-shaped due to the global health crisis.
World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7 under the leadership of World Health Organization (WHO) to create public awareness around a specific health theme for highlighting an area of concern. The theme of World Health Day 2021 is ‘Building a Fairer, Healthier World’ post-Covid-19. This serves as an opportunity to focus on key lessons learnt from the pandemic and its implications and what is the way forward. Here is what these healthcare leaders share:
DS Negi, IAS (Retd), CEO at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute & Research Centre (RGCIRC): The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed been a great learning experience. The pandemic was unprecedented, the disease was unpredictable, and the world was not prepared to address the havoc created by it.
Health systems will need to be strengthened worldwide. With the world becoming one village, the spread of any virus or disease can be in double quick time necessitating the need for robust health infrastructure, especially for a dense country such as India. The existing space in hospitals had to be earmarked for Covid treatment. However for a speciality cancer centre such as RGCIRC that can be challenging since cancer patients are immune-compromised. For a long-term view, capacity building in health infrastructure is a must.
Tele or video consultation or telemedicine has emerged as a ray of hope. Even after the pandemic is over, teleconsultation is going to stay. We have received an overwhelming response since 80% of cancer patients are repeat patients and the check-ups can be substituted by telemedicine. The coming decade will see more innovative patient outreach technologies aiding in healthcare.
Dr Rajan Verma, Medical Director for Lab Operations at Oncquest Laboratories Ltd: Covid is a moving target. We learn, we re-strategise how best to counter the virus even when millions around the world are getting infected every week. Our government efforts to immunise the population are commendable given the enormity of the task. Unfortunately, immunisation seems to have killed the fear of Covid amongst many of us and we have definitely put our guard down is the reason why there is a spurt in the number of cases thus making the Covid fight a more challenging one. We are still days if not months away from getting the whole population immunised. Hence there is an urgent need for every one of us to play our part by following all the prescribed safety protocols.
We, at Oncquest Labs, have been helping people fight this pandemic ever since we got ICMR approval for Covid testing. The fight continues and we have learnt to live with it. We maintain a safe, Covid-free workplace. As one of the leading private diagnostic players, we will keep playing an important role and be ready to support the government efforts towards scaled-up testing or immunisation support.
Ashok Patel, Founder & CEO, Max Ventilator: With the Covid-19 in the backdrop, World Health Day is an opportune time for reflection. As a medical device manufacturer, the single biggest lesson from the Covid-19 that we have learnt is that there is never really a dull time for innovation. Especially for a company such as ours that makes lifesaving breathing devices that are technologically complex and continue to evolve through time. So, a company must continue to upgrade its technological base, find new solutions while striving towards constantly coming up with new products. Unless it does that, regardless of the Covid-19, in a hyper-competitive industry space, in no time will it become irrelevant and even get wiped out. And this innovation aspect also extends to the acquisition of certificates for quality and standards from the already recognised and accredited global bodies which serve the advanced industrialised countries and markets.
Another lesson that has hit home is that long-term and stable partnerships with suppliers and vendors are the bedrock of a company’s supply chain management. Also, instead of complex supply chain processes, simplification of the supply chain holds a far better prospect in terms of smoothness and efficiency in times of a crisis such as Covid-19. This allows clarity when envisaging inventory planning or management. And of course, taking to digitalisation is not an option any more. It must be embraced in all respects and as soon as possible.
Dr Gurpreet Sandhu, President at Council for Healthcare and Pharma: Even as the ongoing pandemic has brought out in sharp relief the inequitable healthcare access that continues to plague our country despite the best efforts of the authorities, World Health Day is just the opportune occasion to renew the pledge to give ourselves a fairer and healthier India, and indeed the world.
With the vaccination programme underway across the country, firstly, it is critical that an equal distribution of vaccines and the related machinery and personnel is ensured across the country. In other words, no one in the country, whether in big cities or rural pockets, should be deprived of a vaccine simply because of the timely unavailability of Covid shots. We should not forget that India is a leading manufacturer of Covid vaccines and is even supplying to many countries abroad including those in Africa thereby doing its bit in terms of making a more equitable and healthy world. So, while India is helping the cause of a fairer healthier world, it must also do so for its own people within the country.
The recent reportage on vaccine hesitancy in several parts of the country reflects a lack of equal access to information and material on vaccines and their efficacy. So, there is a need to re-energise efforts to spread the ‘good word’ on the vaccines to every nook and corner of the country. This too would help in bringing health equity to the country.
Dr Swadeep Srivastava, Founder, HEAL Health: The Covid-19 underscored the importance of working smarter and we will continue pursuing opportunities to enhance efficiency while providing world-class care as we move into the future. This pandemic has also revealed the need for additional investment and innovation around virtual health.
Hospitals and health systems will need to place a greater focus on shifting from reactive to proactive care. The experience of responding to the pandemic has made organisations work smarter and faster. The Covid-19 forced the people to adapt and learn telehealth processes along the way. Technology is a key to providing cost-effective health care that is personalized and scalable across broad geographic areas. The Covid-19 moment emphasises the need for thoughtful preparedness and innovation to drive safety and efficiency.
I think this pandemic will change the delivery of care forever. Technology is the answer to how we provide better disease surveillance, better patient-consumer engagement and better care delivery. I think technology and our experiences during this public health crisis will lead our industry to do more, intelligently.
Farhan Pettiwala, Executive Director & Head Development for India & South Asia at Akhand Jyoti Eye Hospital: The Covid-19 has taught us many important lessons. Countries that have a decent infrastructure around digital transformation and are on the journey towards delivering better digital health services were much better prepared for the pandemic. Digital health is not about technology, it is about outcomes in quality and safety of healthcare. Besides, the vaccination needs to be paced as per availability as 20-25% of India’s population is above 45 years but is contributing to more than 80% of Covid deaths. Prioritisation is never easy but needs to be done for the larger good until there is enough for everyone.