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COVID-19: Disrupting the healthcare business’ practices

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Dr RB Smarta, Chairman and Managing Director, Interlink writes about how the COVID-19 pandemic can prove to be a game-changer for the people across the globe, and how it will affect how the pharma industry runs its operations

The COVID-19 (ARV- Acute Respiratory Virus) pandemic is disrupting and challenging the entire world like never before. I believe that it will help in making companies the world over more humane than being just profit-oriented. The social distancing will, in fact, help in bringing the people closer.

The present crisis will make a new difference in humankind’s equation of 3Ps i.e. People, Planet and Profits. It will help in making each of us more humble, caring, empathetic and self-sufficient. These times will create more awareness about the importance of preserving and protecting our planet and its air, water and food resource. There will be a corporate behavioural shift where more importance will be given to people and the planet over profits.

Profits need to be earned, as they have five vital functions to play in business. Business need to be sustained for future so that they can be prepared for 1) Any sudden changes in technology and disruption and business becomes vulnerable, 2) any calamity like COVID 19; 3) Any sudden economic requirement arises due to an amendment in corporate laws, 4) yearly welfare of people through increments, 5) Reward of risk taken by owners or investors. It is vital for any living company to make profits, but not to have a profit-ring attitude!

Throughout the world, the global pharma industry (including India, US, and Europe) depended on China for the raw materials and active pharma ingredients (APIs) needed to make the final products. Many of these economies faced severe issues in securing ingredients on time during the present crisis. From now on, the governments of these countries will not allow them to be over-dependent on China. India is no exception.

I can see the Indian government encouraging more startups to manufacture many of these raw materials and APIs to make the economy self-reliant. Also, multiple non-pharma and non-healthcare players would enter the sector and invest in manufacturing of APIs (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients), generics, medical equipment and wearables. It is the right time for Indian medical start-ups to make wonders in the global healthcare arena.

The global pharma industry will move from a product-centric approach to a people’s need-centric one. Till now, it used to be purely product-centric – meaning that first a product was launched taking into consideration the market benefits, before taking it to patients. However, I believe, the situation would change after the present crisis. There would be many industry leaders, whom I believe, would plan, design, research on new pharma molecules based on what the society’s healthcare and medical priorities are. Profits will come on its accord.

There will be increased adoption of data analysis to understand disease patterns, patient responses and drug development would be based on that. More plans and methods will be developed for better patient engagement, better accessibility to doctors and medicines, and increased patient adherence. There would be use of more evidence-based, therapeutic tools. I would say, all of this would make the industry more socialist.

The ongoing situation will accelerate the digital transformation of healthcare or e-healthcare. It will lead to more e-health usage and accessibility in the country – be it in the area of telemedicine, electronic health records, medical billing software, hospital management systems, telemedicine, patient management programmes, healthcare wearables. There will be more usage of video-conferencing through zoom and skype calls.

Jugaad will work hand-in-hand with innovation. During the present crisis, we have converted train coaches into ICU centres and isolation wards. Likewise, our labs have been able to develop low-cost ventilators during this time of need. Why cannot our-start-ups continue to do the same even after the crisis?!

Staying at home, people would realise the importance of balanced nutrition, sanitation and sanitisation. Even after the pandemic is controlled, we are going to move forward with our newly acquired habits. In effect, we are becoming an inclusive healthy society in this challenging time. New family bondings will be created. This is the perfect time to go higher into spirituality. The new moment is inspiring healthcare and scientific research institutions in the world to leverage all their might to find new solutions towards bacterial and viral resistance.

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