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Arun Jaitley and Jeff Bezos

Searching the vast Internet, I was unable to find a site or a news item where India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos are mentioned together. And, yet as I got up this morning, both were on my mind because they have both decided to do something about making healthcare more affordable for people from low income families in two of the world’s largest democracies.

As part of the India’s 2018 Budget, Arun Jaitley announced a health insurance plan for 500 million low income citizens of India. Almost at the same time, Jeff Bezos announced low cost healthcare services to many of people in USA who are finding it increasingly difficult to get healthcare services.

Is this a coincidence? Or is this caused by super blue blood moon of 2018? We will never know.

And, look at the contrasting public health spending in these two countries – Present public healthcare spending in the USA is USD 4800 per citizen, while in India the figure is USD 26 per citizen. From public healthcare spending point of view, these two countries are almost two ends of the spectrum. It turns out that no healthcare system in any country is perfect, barring Singapore which has less population than a suburb of Bangalore. Common problems faced by healthcare planners are:

– Huge imbalance in demand (number of patients) and supply (physicians, specialists, care facility and infrastructure)

– High concentration of healthcare infrastructure in urban centers thus leaving a significant population base with very few care facilities

– Sharp increase in chronic disease patients

– High cost to the society due to avoidable invasive procedures

– Distance to diagnostics centers and tertiary care facilities

– Many avoidable deaths and huge loss of productivity due to delayed diagnosis

The root cause of these problems is the fact that significant investments have gone into technologies and infrastructure for tertiary care and decline of primary care or care close to home. Both Jaitley and Bezos have proposed plans that almost identical in their approach to address the healthcare problems in India and the USA:

– Better healthcare services at home or closer to home. In India, the emphasis is to improve primary care significantly. In the US, the approach is greater use of tele-medicine

– Success of both these plans depend on better use of technologies to deliver better care outcomes and reduce cost to the beneficiaries

What Jaitley and Bezos need is greater use of IoT and AI to make this happen. Companies like Cardiotrack and American Well are likely beneficiaries of these initiatives. These companies have demonstrated how technology can be deployed to optimally use available resources and drive down costs and provide better health outcomes.

Congratulations – @arunjaitley and @JeffBezos for your bold move to provide better healthcare to people who can least afford it. This is nation building at its best.