Health outsourcing is not just about American hospitals offshoring work to India. Within India hospitals are looking to increase their efficiency by moving diagnostic, lab and even managerial work to specialised units in the country.
"Many hospitals today have back-to-back arrangement with various labs for doing specialised tests. They do not disclose it to the patient, but the facility is generally used for high end lab tests. Lot of genetic samples are also moving within the country as very few specialised centres for conducting these tests are available," says Dr BK Rao, Chairman, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi.
Many models have come up in local healthcare outsourcing and they range from contracts to joint ventures. The percentage growth is huge, notes Vivek Trikha, Head, Diagnostics, Dabur OncQuest.
Agrees Dr Ajay Agarwal of Diwan Chand Integral Health Services. "It's potential is huge and the main beneficiaries of this are patients in remote areas. Though technology has reached small towns and cities, they hardly have specialised radiologists or pathologists at their end."
Citing the case of teleradiology model, he says "the X-Rays are sent through DSL lines from these small towns to places like Delhi or other metros where trained radiologists are available. They interpret them and send back the reports."
Contrary to popular perception, the costs of getting the tests done at these specialised labs comes down, firstly due to large volumes which bring down costs and also they use many home brewed reagents which bring down the price of the tests, says Trikha.
"Besides diagnostics, outsourcing offers lot of scope in area of continuing medical education. Many medical colleges and hospitals within the country are doing it and share experts' opinion through videoconferencing," says Dr Rao.
"There is also scope of knowledge outsourcing with foreign hospitals. They will be very happy to get information from us on tuberculosis and other tropical diseases which west is not much aware of. Same way we can benefit by getting knowledge on some diseases which have just started appearing in India," says Dr Rao.
Hospital management outsourcing is another emerging area in the desi context, he says noting "small hospitals take expert help from big units to manage their facilities."
It's a win win situation for the hospital and the outsourcing partner as the hospitals are able to cut down costs by nearly 20 per cent and the diagnostic centres get a ready clientele, experts say.
According to industry estimates the Indian diagnostics is around 864 million dollar and is growing at the rate of 20 per cent annually.
"It works on volumes. The biggest strength here is the numbers because of which the cost of getting tests also comes down," explains Trikha.