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Considering the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the havoc caused by Omicron, the new virus variant, all eyes of the healthcare sector were on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman´s Union Budget for 2022. While the National Digital Health Ecosystem to be rolled out and the National Tele Mental Health Program are being praised, many experts are expressing disappointment.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • National Digital Health Ecosystem to be rolled out
  • National Tele Mental Health Program to be launched for quality counselling
  • Integrated architecture: Mission Shakti, Mission Vatsalya, Saksham Anganwadi, and Poshan 2.0 to be launched

The Tech Panda gathered the reactions, both positive and negative, of healthcare experts to find out how the budget will impact the sector.


Read more: Budget 2022 reaction: AGTECH


Sahil Dharia, Founder & CEO, Soothe Healthcare

Digitalization of mental health under Tele Mental Health program is a big thumbs up to the government for recognizing this need

“We were expecting a healthcare focused budget with some specific interventions to the Make in India program. However, digitalization of mental health under Tele Mental Health program is a big thumbs up to the government for recognizing this need.”

Gaurav Gupta, Co-founder, Navia Life Care

We applaud the Government’s initiative to roll out an Open Platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem

“We are very excited to see that the Government is intending to enhance the digital ecosystem in the country, more specifically in the healthcare and financial services industries. We applaud the Government’s initiative to roll out an Open Platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem.

“We sincerely hope and believe that this step will boost the digital health infrastructure in the country and will help thousands of doctors and millions of patients going forward. This is an encouraging step for healthtech startups such as Navia who have been the crusaders of digital health and electronic health records.”

Apurv Agrawal, Co-founder, Avni

The absence of the right information had created a ruckus during the first and second wave of COVID. We are glad that the government took note of the same and has now resolved the challenge too

“The pandemic has unravelled a lot of loopholes in the Indian healthcare system. Certainly, health was to stay a priority in the budget. The Budget announced the launch of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem. This will provide easy access to the available health facilities and health providers.

“The absence of the right information had created a ruckus during the first and second wave of COVID. We are glad that the government took note of the same and has now resolved the challenge too.”

Dr. Angeli Misra (MD Path), Founder & Director, Lifeline Laboratory

The diagnostic equipment manufacturing industry continues to bear a heavy tax burden, as there is no reduction in customs and excise duty and tax exemptions on imports for an industry that is heavily dependent on imports (86%)

“The diagnostics industry has been ignored in the new budget. There is a deep sense of disappointment at no significant allocation of additional funds to boost India’s healthcare infrastructure. The diagnostic equipment manufacturing industry continues to bear a heavy tax burden, as there is no reduction in customs and excise duty and tax exemptions on imports for an industry that is heavily dependent on imports (86%).

“The launch of an open platform for a National Digital Health Ecosystem, a focus on building domestic capacities by encouraging public-private partnership, and the promotion of R&D to provide universal access to health facilities for all, is however, a welcome move.”

Tarun Gupta, Co-founder, LISSUN

The budget inculcating the fact that focussing mental and emotional wellness is the need of the hour, itself talks about how progressive we are becoming in our approach as a nation

“As a result of the pandemic, a lot of entrepreneurs had stepped forward to address the challenge of rising mental health issues in India. The cases of depression and anxiety disorders witnessed an increase of about 25% globally, and by 35% in India alone. The National Mental Health Programme and Health and Wellness Centres alone could not have reached every individual in the crisis that they might face struggling in a moment. The easy access was the primary point of concern for everyone trying to help towards the issue.

“The government has recognised this, and addressed the same by launching Tele mental health service. The budget inculcating the fact that focussing mental and emotional wellness is the need of the hour, itself talks about how progressive we are becoming in our approach as a nation.”

Dr. Preet Pal Thakur, Co-founder, GlamyoHealth

As the Budget mentioned, the platform will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, which will serve the purpose of access and availability of information

“The primary challenge in delivering fine health services was the lack of awareness and access. A person sitting in tier 2 city might not even know about the presence of a probable medical facility to his current challenge. With the launch of the open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem this particular gap will be filled in a single go.

“As the Budget mentioned, the platform will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, which will serve the purpose of access and availability of information.”

Chayan Mukhopadhyay, Co-founder & CEO, Qandle

The launch of Tele mental health service will be widely accessible, and individuals will not hesitate in reaching out for counselling

“It was imperative to control the rising hidden pandemic of mental and emotional health issues. Though a lot of companies took measures to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees, it was visible in their productivity that how people are struggling within themselves.

“Also, employees usually hesitate in reaching out to their HRs or counsellors for help. The launch of Tele mental health service will be widely accessible, and individuals will not hesitate in reaching out for counselling. This will boost the wellbeing and productivity of people, which will eventually lead to a healthy nation and economy. This announcement highlights how we are a forward moving nation.”

Dr. Preeti Singh, Chief Medical Officer, Lissun

We remain positive that the government and health ministry will continue to increase expenditures in the coming years, especially pertaining to investments in primary healthcare and mental health infrastructure, to make it a full-fledged movement, which is much needed

“It is overwhelming to see that Government has recognised that along with the digital health ecosystem, mental health also needs attention. We are in the middle of a mental health pandemic and have seen how mental health issues have risen in the last 2 years exponentially.

“Indian statistics are very gloomy when it comes to mental health experts per lakh of population in India, almost making it impossible to meet the mental health needs currently. The only way out is the outreach by digital and telemedicine platforms and successfully training the counsellors programme at the basic level for screening the psychiatric conditions and providing basic counselling.

“To begin with, 25 centres of excellence is a good number, but we need more hands to bridge the gaps of mental health care needs to cater to India’s mental health scenario. Owing to this government’s thrust gives more validation to the startups already working in this industry. They will also become more proactive to fight the pandemic and safeguard people’s health.

“Mental health issues have reached in Tier-II and Tier-III towns already as they don’t have trained mental health experts. Tele Medicine is a big move in this regard. We remain positive that the government and health ministry will continue to increase expenditures in the coming years, especially pertaining to investments in primary healthcare and mental health infrastructure, to make it a full-fledged movement, which is much needed.”

Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals

Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much on healthcare and education in this budget

“When we were struggling with the massive pandemic second wave last year, we thought that the only silver lining out of this would be that the current state of healthcare facilities in the country would attract the attention of the government, especially the Prime Minister and the finance minister. And we will see a big push towards healthcare spending, at least to the promise 3% of GDP that the government has been promising since a long time.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much on healthcare and education in this budget. The welcome part of the budget is that the national digital health ecosystem has been opened up and the National Mental Health tele helpline is being launched. Mental health has been disregarded for a very long time in the country. But overall, haven’t had any exciting news so far from the budget, which we were looking forward to.”

Dr. Jyoti Kapoor, Founder, Manasthali

It’s commendable that the mental well-being of the community has been prioritised

“This has been the best budget when it comes to highlighting the need of mental health when the nation is gripped by the COVID pandemic from the last couple of years. The isolation and social-distancing have brought mental health concerns to the forefront. All strata of society have suffered tremendously due to stress of pandemic, financial uncertainty, and lack of adequate medical services.

“It’s commendable that the mental well-being of the community has been prioritised. In this regard, the announcement of a mental health care and counselling program is a silver lining. IIT-Bangalore has been appointed for providing the tech support in implementing the program.”

Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation

The current direct allocations for mental health are grossly insufficient, taking into consideration that 14% of India’s population lives with some form of mental illness, and there exists a treatment gap of 72–92%

“The current direct allocations for mental health are grossly insufficient, taking into consideration that 14% of India’s population lives with some form of mental illness, and there exists a treatment gap of 72–92%. The launch of a national tele-mental health program for mental health counselling in collaboration with IIT Bangalore is a much-awaited move from the government.

“Mental healthcare & well-being are complex & intersectoral in nature, for an effective mental health system, intersectoral linkages must be strengthened and this has been reflected in the Union Budget 2022-23. Also, the launch of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem which will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities is a testimony of the commitment of the government to building stronger health systems.”

Dr. Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre

The provision for digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework, and universal access to health facilities would make it easier for everyone including patients and caregivers in the coming years

“With the budget 2022 continuing to be growth-oriented as it picks up from budget 2021, the sharp focus on infrastructure building by way of Gati Shakti being one of the four priorities underlines the long term perspective of the government.

“Even as the pandemic apparently seems on its way out notwithstanding the persisting risks, the endeavour to comprehensively digitalise the health infrastructure in the form of National Digital Health Ecosystem along with setting up of mental health centres of excellence must be welcomed by all means. The provision for digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework, and universal access to health facilities would make it easier for everyone including patients and caregivers in the coming years.”

KR Raghunath, Senior Chairman, Jindal Naturecure Institute

These patient centred initiatives will play a pivotal role in the success of the National Health Mission

“We welcome the much-deserved attention on India’s healthcare sector in the Union Budget 2022-23. We are encouraged by the Government’s renewed focus on preventive and curative health as well as the overall wellness and well-being of our citizens.

“An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem which will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities will widen access to health and wellness while driving focus on preventive health.

“Also, to better the access to quality mental health counselling and care services, a National Tele Mental Health program has been announced that’ll further help in tackling the rising number of mental health disorders in the country. These patient centred initiatives will play a pivotal role in the success of the National Health Mission.”

Layak Singh, Founder & CEO, Artivatic.AI

The setup of unique health identity will also help the insurance providers in better risk assessment, premiums and claims

FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2022-23 is a rock-solid budget that takes the strong position the nation is poised in despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic due to a successful vaccination campaign and takes it that much ahead at the macro level.

“An open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem which will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity and universal access to health facilities will widen access to quality healthcare driving focus on the need for health insurance. The setup of unique health identity will also help the insurance providers in better risk assessment, premiums and claims. The budget proves that government is committed towards building a strong health system.”

Dr Harshit Jain, Founder & Global CEO, Doceree

The proposed national tele-mental health programme will create a supportive environment for people to talk about emotional issues they counter on a day-to-day basis and help remove the stigma that we have around mental and emotional problems

”The high point of the budget is its focus on mental health. It shows the government’s commitment towards creating a holistic health environment. The pandemic has had a visibly damaging impact on the mental well-being of people. The situation got compounded as there was another epidemic we were facing simultaneously – the mental health epidemic which was global in nature.

“The proposed national tele-mental health programme will create a supportive environment for people to talk about emotional issues they counter on a day-to-day basis and help remove the stigma that we have around mental and emotional problems. Also, the decision to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem is yet another move to digitize healthcare in the country which surely has a far-reaching impact on making quality healthcare accessible to all”.

Ankit Poddar, Director, Candle Partners

Recognition of the mental health issues and announcement to set up a National Tele Mental Health program with 23 tele-mental health centres is appreciable

“The National Digital Health Ecosystem is a welcome step, although it would have been welcome to see more specific initiatives to bolster the healthcare ecosystem in the areas of investment and insurance penetration.

“Budget found a very rare mention of Mental Health. Recognition of the mental health issues and announcement to set up a National Tele Mental Health program with 23 tele-mental health centres is appreciable. As per WHO estimates the burden of mental health problems in India is 2443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per 100 00 population; the age-adjusted suicide rate per 100 000 population is 21.1 and the economic loss due to mental health conditions, between 2012-2030, is estimated at USD 1.03 trillion.”

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