NEW DELHI :
The ministry of health and family welfare is exploring options to provide quality diagnostic services from certified laboratories to beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
Towards this end, the government plans to evaluate models for partnering with diagnostic companies which can provide such services.
The government has already announced the establishment of 150,000 health and wellness centres under AB-PMJAY, which will also offer diagnostic services. The NITI Aayog has called for making these centres operational by 2022–23 to ensure sufficient coverage and to lower the burden on secondary and tertiary care.
A government analysis of the geographical presence of laboratories and sample collection centres of three of the largest organized chain players in the private sector reveals that more than half of the districts identified by NITI Aayog as aspirational districts and lacking the most in terms of basic infrastructure are being served by one of these three players.
“As underserved areas in India need special attention, the government is seeking the private sector’s support, under the public private partnership mode, for building infrastructure, improving diagnostics services, and ensuring availability of skilled doctors and health professionals in Tier II and III cities," said Indu Bhushan, chief executive officer, AB-PMJAY and National Health Authority (NHA). “NITI Aayog and NHA are working together to provide financial incentives and encourage private equity investment to improve quality of services and supply in tier-II and III cities," he said.
The Indian medical diagnostic industry will play a vital role in prevention and wellness, which is the foundation of Ayushman Bharat, with 41% of the expenditure on primary healthcare being on diagnostics, according to the Union health ministry.
“We have also asked the diagnostic industry to directly engage with states for expanding teleradiology, which would not only help Ayushman Bharat but also other government schemes," said Vinod Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog.
Sub health centres and primary health centres are being strengthened as health and wellness centres (HWCs), to expand access to comprehensive primary health care under Ayushman Bharat. The HWCs will also provide preventive, promotive, rehabilitative, and curative care for an expanded range of services including reproductive and child health services. “The private health sector including the diagnostic industry always primarily looks for profits, but the government always has a different priority to provide affordable healthcare to all. We are working with the government on models that will provide quality diagnostics at an affordable cost," said Harsh Mahajan, founder, Mahajan Imaging Centre and vice-president, Healthcare Federation of India.
The diagnostic industry is in conversation with the government to sort out operational challenges amid rising costs. A report titled An Assessment of India’s Laboratory Diagnostic Industry released by the Healthcare Federation of India on Thursday said the industry suffers from limited focus on quality standards and cost pressures driven by high custom duty and the goods and services tax (GST) structure.