Private healthcare providers eye smaller cities to expand business

Apollo, Fortis, Max and others join hands to launch NATHEALTH to provide customised insurance policies and medical services to people in tier 2, 3 and 4 cities

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Thursday 24 October 2013


After promoting private players and public-private partnerships in rural areas, metropolitan and tier-1 cities, private hospitals and other health service providers in India are now targeting smaller cities to expand their business.

Private healthcare providers on Wednesday launched NATHEALTH, an industry body, to cater to medical needs in tier-2, 3 and 4 cities.
Since very few people from tier-2 and tier-3 cities opt for insurance policies, the promoters have proposed to offer customised insurance policies and facilities for the people living in such cities.

"Cities apart from tier-1 cities have scope for more hospitals to be opened as people in those places don’t have access to quality healthcare services. The gap between demand and supply of professionals needs to be addressed as well," said Prathap C Reddy, president of NATHEALTH and chairperson of Apollo Hospitals Group, at the launch of the forum.


The forum has 50 members, including Apollo Hospitals, Fortis Healthcare, Max Hospitals, GE Healthcare, SRL and Dr Lal PathLabs, among others. With the launch of the forum, deliberations to take healthcare to smaller cities, preferably under public-private partnership models, are expected to begin.

Experts have pointed out that cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and death in the country. But there are less than 400 centres where patients affected with the life-threatening disease can be treated. Moreover, many of these centres are located in metros and other big cities.

"Most of the urban population has opted for some or the other private insurance policy and those in rural areas are using government schemes like Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY). It is people in smaller cities who have less access to affordable insurance schemes. Therefore, we need to create packages that can cater to their needs," said Parijat Ghosh, member of the newly-launched forum.


He further said that the insurance scheme provided by healthcare provider Narayana Hrudayalaya is one such example. In this scheme, people pay a small amount annually and the government contributes an equal amount. Even the patients who are in need of expensive treatment get facilities at the hospitals by paying low insurance premiums. Since many people have registered for this scheme with the hospital there is enough money to provide costly treatment too.

Sujata Rao from Association of Medical Consultants, a private body of medical professionals, said that the focus of providers in tier-2, 3 and 4 cities should be on secondary medical care. “Only critical and complicated cases need to go to tertiary care. Therefore, need of the hour is to promote smaller and low-scale clinics in these cities," said Rao.


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