Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Healthcare: Remarkable Progress But The Gaps Needs to be Addressed


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Healthcare progress and challenges

Central Idea

  • The Indian healthcare system has overcome many challenges and has made significant progress, but there are still many tough health challenges that need to be addressed. There is need to bridge the gap between the services available in metropolitan and Tier-II and Tier-III cities, provide healthcare insurance to the unorganised middle class, and use Artificial Intelligence and digital technology to improve healthcare services.

Overcoming past challenges

  • The Indian healthcare system has overcome seemingly insurmountable problems, including high maternal and infant mortality rates, and low hospital delivery rates.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) results show that even in the so-called BIMARU states, hospital deliveries have soared to 89 per cent.

Current Health Challenges

  • Five interrelated challenges: The current macro picture shows at least five interrelated challenges that are pervading the population, including non-communicable diseases (NCDs), obesity, and chronic respiratory diseases.
  • NCDs: The proportion of deaths due to NCDs has increased from around 38 per cent in 1990 to 62 per cent in 2016.
  • Obesity: Obesity has increased from 19 per cent to 23 per cent between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. Awareness about leading healthy lives will save millions from illness and decelerate premature death.

Current state of healthcare in India

  1. Infrastructure:
  • The state of infrastructure matters. Since 2018, governments at the Centre as well as the state have been trying to bolster primary healthcare by establishing health and wellness centres.
  • But there are still huge variations between states, and some states have better arrangements than others. States must step up efforts to improve infrastructure in the healthcare sector.
  1. Bridging the gap in hospital services:
  • In urban areas, the challenge is to bridge the gap in hospital services between large urban agglomerations and Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
  • Large hospital chains provide only 4-5 per cent of the beds in the private sector.
  • Standalone hospitals and nursing homes provide 95 per cent of private hospital beds but are unable to provide multi-specialty, leave alone tertiary and quaternary care.
  • The gaps between services available in the metros and big cities and in districts must be bridged.
  1. Health Insurance Coverage:
  • Low health insurance penetration and the very high personal outgo on healthcare remain a challenge.
  • But over the past three years, more than four crore Indians have bought health insurance.
  • From 2018, the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme for 10 crore poor families has been undertaken to provide insurance against hospitalisation for up to Rs 5 lakh per year per family.
  • Nearly 74 per cent of Indians are either covered or eligible for health insurance coverage.
  1. Use of Artificial Intelligence and digital technology:
  • An emerging concern is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital technology to improve healthcare services.
  • Surgery assisted by robots, the use of genetic codes, clinical decision support systems, and telemedicine can help in making healthcare more accessible and efficient.


  • India has shown how the impossible can be achieved, but the healthcare system needs to overcome various challenges to fully redeem its advantage of having the youngest population. The government needs to step up efforts in improving infrastructure, bridging the gap in hospital services, and providing health insurance coverage for the unorganized middle class. It is also essential to regulate the use of AI and digital technology in the healthcare sector to ensure accountability and prevent malpractice.

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