The Indian health care industry’s growth has been rapid with a CAGR of 17 per cent and is expected to be a US $280 billion industry by the year 2020. Yet, the state of healthcare services remains dismal for a large country like India with a population of 1.3 billion that is mostly uninformed. New government raised expectations but could not deliver well. The government system has neither the technology nor the resources. Since health sector is not vote catching it gets a back seat in planning at various levels. With neglected and unregulated health sector many traditional players have come forward to treat patients, who have no education or training for the purpose and who offer miracle cure to cheat the gullible.
The basic difference between health care and patient care is also not clear to policy makers.
Goodman as doctor
A large number of people from different backgrounds and professions are making claims about the groundbreaking miracles of home remedies, traditional medicines and alternative therapies. Several Babas, sadhhus and Godmen practice and market medicines of their brand without any restriction or approval. Even India’s Ayush minister Shripad Yasso Naik spends time and money proving that cow urine cures cancer, stonewalling questions by saying that research is underway. How many people are cured and how many deteriorate is anybody’s guess. But making claims that are not scientifically proven may make the sick and ailing junk their prescription medication and head for the cowsheds in search of cure. Health minister has already begun including the 677,000 registered practitioners of traditional systems such as ayurveda, unani and homeopathy (AUH) in India’s health delivery system to improve the physician-population ratio to 1: 893. Will this help the sick or lead to rampant quackery?
Scientific evidence given goby
There is no scientific evidence that Ayush can cure heart attack, obstructive lung disease, stroke and cancer that account for one in three deaths in India, reported researchers in The Lancet. The top five causes of disability in India are anemia, low back pain, depressive disorder, lung disease and migraine, all of which can easily be prevented and managed if culture of health is made available, reducing the disease burden. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung diseases, and bone and joint disorders are lifestyle ailments, which are preventable. Treating them in advanced stage in tertiary hospitals is counter- productive.
Quackery can be noticed in hospitals also. One of the fashionable trends seems to be to use platelet-enriched fractions of plasma. These are used for all kinds of treatments, from head to toe, depending on the specialization of the doctor. Neurosurgeons inject it in the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain to treat autism; trichologists inject these in the hair follicles to treat baldness, and orthopedic surgeons inject these in the joints to treat arthritis. The fact that these are used anywhere and everywhere itself should make them suspect! These elixirs are supposed to regenerate aging joints and make them as good as new so that patients don’t have to undergo knee surgery. This is a tempting prospect, and many patients get suckered by this kind of advertising. Painful knee joints are common, and patients are quite happy to try these treatments, because they’re marketed so cleverly. Every treatment has a placebo effect, some lucky patients may benefit from it. They sound scientifically plausible because they talk about ” bioactive growth factors”, and they claim that this is backed by research. Part of the problem is that patients naively hope that the government will put a stop to these scams, but how inefficient the government is! Patients also expect the medical profession to regulate itself, but sadly this is not happening. There is a lot of money at stake, and doctors don’t want to speak up against other doctors, because of their code of “professional ethics”. How many lives are lost due to the miracle cures may be difficult to calculate.
While doctors cannot guarantee cure to all ailments, but they can render logical counseling in an ethical manner, so that the patient is not groping in the dark at the mercy of quacks. Patients need to learn to protect themselves because no one else is going to do this for them, which is why they need to learn to stop and think critically. If there is really such a breakthrough, any researcher who came up with any innovation would be happy to publish it in a reputable medical journal, such as the Lancet or the New England Journal of Medicine? After all, this publication would establish his professional reputation for the rest of his life.
Quackery; guaranteed cure
Quacks shout to guarantee cure for incurable diseases. Anybody who has some knowledge in the medical field can get himself or herself registered with the state authority and start practicing as RMP. The problem arises when he starts believing in his half-baked skills. To get faster results if any qualified person switches on to corticosteroids or latest generation of Antibiotics, it reflects a quack mind! People staying in Administrative Duties for years suddenly start operating again, that is another form of quackery. Surgeons seeing cardiac cases and physicians suturing wounds are common in private practice! Anyone pretending to have magical cure is a quack. Why should a person who is qualified should act like a quack?
The way forward is to consolidate existing initiatives to make delivery efficient and work accountable. Overlapping policies and programmes – nutrition and sanitation, to name two — run by different ministries such as health and family welfare, women and child development, water supply and sanitation, rural development, urban development, among others, need to be integrated to improve quality and reach.