A lack of any national system subjects individual citizens to the costs of the healthcare system on the whole. As Rao (2006) reports, "public expenditure on health care today is a dismal 0.9% of GDP; the overwhelming majority of health costs are paid by patients out of pocket. For many, even minor illnesses can cause big financial setbacks, and hospitalisation is out of the question." (Rao, 1) the poor indicators for health discussed here throughout are particularly implicated here, with the understanding that the Indian government has willfully failed to positively impact the healthcare system and its severe limitations as an agency for the delivery of public health.
That stated, there is today a most concerted effort at bringing India into line with the ambitions of the world community. Its policies see India moving toward the uptake of a universal healthcare system which seems to be emerging from the environment of heavy foreign investment elevating India's broader economic fortunes.
A nation conventionally and correctly regarded as one stricken by poverty and a dysfunctional distribution of wealth, nonetheless, India has "today become the tenth largest economy in the world with a GDP of over $166 billion. " (Dickenson Associates, 3) This rise in status should not be seen as unexpected. Certainly, it has been a long and difficult climb out of the disadvantages foisted upon it by its history as a deeply conflicted British colony. Nonetheless, India is today a veritable bastion for democracy in a part of the world otherwise resistant to many of the strains of modernity. And in accompaniment with its great expansion has been the increased level of interest that it has attracted from foreign investors, who believe that India has shown the potential to be a center for the capitalist development of South Asia. Private equity investment in India has paralleled its rise in world economy ranking. According to the Bain & Company (2006) capital management firm, "the private equity market in India, which attracted $2.2 billion in investment capital in 2005, will reach nearly $7 billion in 2010." (Krauss, 2) This relatively short-term project parallels a belief by many that India is a top destination for investment funds, with its future growth likely meaning widespread spoils.
Among these widespread spoils, India's government has poised it to begin the process of availing healthcare to the whole of its population. Recent efforts on the part of the government have centered on meeting the massive challenges represented in India's slums and rural outlying provinces as well. Thus, according to the International Health Economics Association, the "challenge now is to provide universal healthcare. This is the stated objective of the 2002 National Health Policy, which aims at providing acceptable standards of good health to the general population. It seeks to achieve this by upgrading the existing infrastructure, establishing new infrastructure in deficient areas and improving access to the public health system. To this end, the Government launched the National Rural Health Mission in 2005 'to carry out basic architectural correction in the health care delivery system.'" (Bahadur, 1)
And indeed, a nation structured such as is India may prove a suitable example for investigating the prospects of telemedicine as a partial strategy for addressing some of the world's most intolerable circumstances of medical neglect. India may serve well the purposes of identifying obstacles and incentives to telemedicine strategy implementation. The world's second most populous nation functions as a case in which the need for such a program is strong and where the potential aptitude for the benefit to be gained from it is extremely high, and yet, where the challenges to effective integration are at their highest.
These conditions justify the exploration of Telemedicine strategies for pursuit of a universal healthcare system that would address drastically needed improvement in the availability of medical information and human resources. The abilities for physicians and other medical personnel, with the advent of the internet, to conduct crucial analytical interactions, to engage verbally with patients and even, through webcam technology, to observe certain symptomatic health indicators, without the obstruction of geographical separation, collectively illuminate an exciting path for the ongoing proliferation of medical attention and medical information, both derived from a globalizing standard. Indeed, with many physicians increasingly adapting tele-consultation as a part of their arsenal of treatment options, telemedicine is demonstrating itself to be an intelligent way to "expand access, improve quality, and restrain the costs of health care in rural areas," of which India is quite heavily comprised. (Schanz, 1)
The priorities of the global economic community have largely been toward the enrichment of private industries. But the transitions pushed for by the World Health Organization and beginning to take hold in India are reflective of an ever more pressing need to ensure that the rhetorical claims of globalization are met. As trade proliferation instigates greater Foreign Direct Investment in places such as India, its leaders, private enterprisers and the global community as a whole have an obligation to see that the affluence generated is shared with the public. The universalization of healthcare is perhaps the most compelling way to align to outcomes of globalization with its declaimed ambition.
Bahadur, a. (2005). 3rd India Health Summit - Universal Healthcare: India Challenges. International Health Economics Association. Online at http://www.healtheconomics.org/conferences/2005/11/21/3rd-india-health-summi.html
CNN Health. (2008). WHO Slams Global Health Care, Calls for Universal Coverage. CNN.
Dickenson Associates. (2006). Indian Banking & Financial Services. Private Equity Journal for India, 1(4). Online at .
Krauss, C. (2006). Private Equity Market in India Set to More than Triple. Bain & Company. Online at < http://www.bain.com/bainweb/publications/in_the_news_detail.asp?id=25246&menu_url=for_the_media.asp>.
Rao, a. (2006). Universal Care-Still Miles to Go. India Together. Online at http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/oct/hlt-nocare.htm
Schanz, S.J. (2002). 1997: A Busy Year for Telemedicine Legislation?
Telemedicine Today. Online at http://www2.telemedtoday.com/articles/LegislativeTelemedicine.shtml.
Sood, Sanjay P. (2002). Telemedicine in India. SPSood. Online at .