The annually increasing life expectancy of the 1.3billion people in India is causing a strain on the national healthcare industry, therefore innovation is required to keep up with the medical demand. The current life expectancy in India is 69 years. Although most of the population is quite young (50% under 25 years old), the leading causes of death in the country are hypertension (caused by things like smoking), diabetes (caused by too much sugar) and coronary heart disease (caused by too much fat), all of which are lifestyle-related (smoking and diet). Previously, high infant mortality rates, infectious diseases and population control were the largest healthcare concerns. This shift in health issues puts pressure on the government and healthcare industry to address new concerns by updating regulations, encouraging medical technology innovation and enforcing minimum standards for healthcare delivery and documentation.
Fortunately, technological innovations are already helping to improve life expectancy and quality of life in India. Simple technological methods are being used, such as television and radio advertising, to make people aware of the dangers of a poor diet. Digital healthy eating campaigns are helping to educate people on the foods they should be aiming to eat, helping to reduce rates of diabetes and heart disease.
In 2018, the government in India introduced the Ayushman Bharat initiative which promises to provide affordable access to healthcare services by offering medical insurance worth $7,100 USD each, to 100 million families each year. This is the world’s largest universal health coverage programme ever. The Indian government spends approximately 1.15% of GDP on the public healthcare system. Despite this investment, the healthcare coverage between urban and rural areas does not cover the needs of the country. Furthermore, there is a severe lack of trained health professionals available to accommodate the population’s needs. Therefore, there is a significant need for innovation in medical technology to address the shortcomings in treatment availability.
Innovation in the medical field can be illustrated using data on patent applications filed in India. The graph below shows the number of applications filed under the IPC sub-classifications of A61: Medical or Veterinary Science; Hygiene that relate to medical technology between 1999-2019. Please note, the counts for 2018 and 2019 do not include unpublished applications. It can take up to 18 months for a filed application to be published. Yet, it can be seen that after the significant rise in applications since 2000, there was a peak in 2009, and since then there has been a slight decline.
PatBase search query: IC=(A61B OR A61C OR A61F OR A61G OR A61H OR A61K OR A61J OR A61L OR A61M OR A61N) AND PRC=IN
According to the WIPO Global Innovation Index 2019, India is still however, among the top 20 global medical device markets and the 4th largest medical device market in Asia. Therefore, medical tourism in India has increased by almost 50%, from 130,000 in 2015 to 200,000 in 2016. This figure is expected to double in the near future. Generally, there is an optimistic outlook on the future of the medical industry in India. Despite the slight decline in filed applications, the number of granted patents has risen steadily since 2005. This shows that the quality of applications is likely better than before.
While more developed countries such as the US and Japan continue to lead the word in cutting-edge medical research, and thus medical patents, India has a unique opportunity to develop innovative processes to increase the accessibility of healthcare for their large population.
These graphs were created using PatBase Analytics V2, which is accessible via PatBase. Request a free trial by clicking here.
This article was inspired by WIPO Global Innovation Index 2019 Chapter 13, available to read here.