COVID-19: Clinicians corner: Dispatch from India on how the pandemic is changing healthcare

Rana Mehta Partner & Leader Healthcare, PwC India April 23, 2020

HRI spoke with Dr. Rana Mehta, PwC Partner and Healthcare Leader in India. Dr. Mehta has worked with India’s largest healthcare provider, as well as large integrated health systems and payers in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

PwC Health Research Institute (HRI):

What are healthcare providers in India most worried amidst this pandemic?

HRI: How do you think COVID-19 will change healthcare delivery?

Dr. Rana Mehta, PwC Partner and Healthcare Leader in India:

Healthcare delivery may never be the same again after COVID-19. I’m a medical doctor and used to run hospitals. My personal belief within every epidemic is that the caregiver gets equally protected, because the caregiver is also impacted.

We saw in China and see in India that people are comfortable using virtual care, to call a doctor on a telephone. Hospitals and large providers have largely ignored this. But now they don’t want people to come in and risk spreading to healthcare workers and other patients. Suddenly the whole paradigm has shifted. There was no business model and maybe this is the inflection point.

HRI: What steps have providers taken to expand capacity to treat patients?

Dr. Rana Mehta: They are mobilizing a lot of hospitals, and other institutions not being used, such as sanatoriums. That effort is going on. It’s having the trained manpower. What’s becoming more prevalent is you can have an ICU ready, but you don’t have a doctor. You have a nurse who takes your vitals, that goes to a command center where they tell you what to do with a patient. If you have 50 patients in one place, there won’t be enough doctors. Can you monitor that patient remotely? 

People don’t like uncertainty. The biggest problem is about the uncertainty about when this will be over. From airlines to the hospitality industry, they are frozen in their tracks because they don’t know where this is heading.

HRI: What role has testing played in India’s response?

Dr. Rana Mehta: In India, testing is free from day one. Not everyone can get testing, only if you demonstrate symptoms. Then there is a list of hospitals you can go to, where testing is done for free. If it’s positive, you are quarantined. If negative, you are discharged with advice. The only problem is everyone displaying symptoms is going to hospital.

HRI: What steps are hospitals taking to reduce the spread of disease to healthcare workers?

Dr. Rana Mehta: There are the general guidelines being followed, from WHO. Problems come when physical resources get limited—the number of gowns, sanitizers, masks. What we are hearing from public hospitals is they’re running out. At the screening level, can you do this more virtually, can you connect with the symptoms?

HRI: How do you expect the national economy to adjust to this in the coming months?

Dr. Rana Mehta: People don’t like uncertainty. The biggest problem is about the uncertainty about when this will be over. From airlines to the hospitality industry, they are frozen in their tracks because they don’t know where this is heading.

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Rana Mehta

Partner & Leader Healthcare, PwC India

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