ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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This letter is in response to the article by Meeta Rajivlochan, “Improving Healthcare Services at Reduced Prices” (EPW, 3 January 2015). I am not sure if laying down standards of healthcare is practical and implementable and whether any example of the same exists in other countries. However, the author has correctly identified the problem and malaise of the healthcare system in India — poor quality of healthcare and unregulated costs. Both stem from a lopsided demand–supply relation where patients far outnumber doctors and the bed capacity of hospitals. This puts patients at the receiving end; instead of the consumer being the king, it is the service provider who is the king. Otherwise market forces would have determined the prices, patient being spoilt for choice of doctors and hospitals, the latter would need to give quality healthcare at competitive rates or perish. In such a situation, not much regulation would have been required by government.

Currently the commercial margins in private hospitals are very high, expensive procedures are done at the drop of a hat and branded, exorbitantly-priced, drugs are regularly prescribed. There are incentives to doctors to prescribe tests, expensive medicines and expensive procedures and longer hospitalisation. The patient–consumer is the loser. Hospitals are not happy with the CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) rates and try to find ways and means to increase their patient’s bill by adding or clubbing other procedures and tests. In this market, medical representatives are hard-selling their products like stents, c-pap machines and drugs to doctors and giving incentives, including cash, for the same.

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