Urban residents, who form only 28 per cent of India’s population, get the lion’s share when it comes to access to hospital beds, while the remaining 72 per cent rural population are left with access to just one-third of hospitals beds across the country, says a study.

According to ‘Understanding Healthcare Access in India - what is the Current State?’, a report by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the urban residents have access to 66 per cent of the total hospital beds available in India.

“Similarly, the distribution of healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, is highly concentrated in urban areas and the private sector,” it said.

As per the study, the physical accessibility of public or private healthcare facilities is a challenge in rural areas, it added.

In rural areas, to seek OPD treatment 32 per cent of rural respondents had to travel over 5 kms, while 68 per cent travelled less than 5 kms for the same.

On the other hand, in urban areas, 92 per cent travelled less than 5 kms to get OPD treatment, while only 8 per cent travelled more than 5 kms.

The study also said cost of treatment at private healthcare facilities is between two and nine times higher than at public facilities.

It, however, said a 40-45 per cent reduction in out-of- pocket expenditure for both outpatient and inpatient treatments can be attained through a holistic approach addressing four critical, interrelated dimensions of healthcare access.

The critical areas are physical accessibility of healthcare facilities, availability and capacity of the resources, quality and functionality of service and affordability of treatment, it pointed out.

Commenting on the finding, IMS Health Information and Consulting Services India Pvt Ltd Managing Director, South Asia, Amit Backliwal told PTI: “There is a misconception that access is equal to affordability. It is not so. Affordability is an important factor but not the only factor.”

If the issues of availability and quality are taken care of, there can be movement of the patients from the private to public healthcare system, Mr. Backliwal added.

Lack of diagnostic facilities, lack of doctors and long waiting times are the main reasons for majority of patients opting for private healthcare system, study suggested.

The study is based on a survey of nearly 15,000 households covering all socio-economic groups in rural and urban areas across 12 states, supplemented with interviews with over 1,000 doctors and experts.

The remedy for this can be effective financing mechanisms. Increased insurance penetration while relevant to all segments is particularly critical for those below the poverty line, the study said.

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics is part of IMS Health, a worldwide provider of information, technology and services for the healthcare sector.

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