NEW DELHI: Households across India still overwhelmingly depend on private providers for healthcare services over public healthcare, a recent study has found.
Senior Fellow at Brookings India, Shamika Ravi, found in her study "Health and Morbidity in India: 2004-2014" that as much as 75 per cent of outpatient (OPD) care in India was exclusively private in 2014.
Around 55 per cent of inpatient (IPD) care is from private hospitals, it added.
Ravi, however, noted that dependence on private healthcare is declining.
"Indian households' dependence on public care has risen by 6 per cent for OPD care and by 7 per cent for IPD care," she said.
The study based on analysis of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data was released on Friday at Teen Murti House here followed by a panel discussion on "Health and Morbidity in India: Evidence and Policy Implications".
The study is co-authored by Rahul Ahluwalia and Sofi Bergkvist.
Ravi added that "out of pocket" spending has risen significantly between 2004 and 2014, driven primarily by increase in IPD spending.
"There are large disparities across rural and urban households in terms of real out of pocket expenses for IPD such as doctor's fees, medicines and diagnostics.
"Compared to a rural household, an urban household spends five times more on diagnostics, 2.6 times more on medicines and 2.4 times more on doctors' fees," she said.
Her study noted that the rural-urban differences were very small in 2004 with absolutely no difference in the average real expenditures on medicine per inpatient case.
During the panel discussion that followed, Regional Director of World Health Organisation Poonam Khetrapal said that health seeking behaviour of women is lower in India compared to men and they donot seek healthcare as much as they should.
"We need to address these gaps," she said.
National Commission for Women Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam added that most people talk about women health during pregnancy.
"Good health needs to be lifelong and not just focused at the time of pregnancy," she said.
She added that there is need to focus on traditional foods to maintain good health and one should not depend too much on processed food and additives like multi-vitamins for nutrition.
President of Public Health Foundation of India, K. Srinath Reddy, said that there is need to connect primary healthcare with secondary and tertiary healthcare to achieve better results.
"Many countries with even smaller percentage of GDP allocated for health (compared to India) have achieved better health indicators by focusing on primary healthcare. We need to look into that," he said.
Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation Secretary T.C.A. Anant said that there is need to use administrative data as well, along with household data, as is used in the study, to arrive at more realistic conclusions.
"There is also need to maintain pressure on authorities to ensure that quality of administrative data is improved," he said.