By: Mr. Vikram Thaploo, CEO Telehealth, Apollo Hospitals Enterprises Limited

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) entails the enduring dedication of businesses to incorporate social and environmental concerns into their operational framework. In the Indian context, CSR endeavors are obligatory as per the Companies Act of 2013, necessitating companies to both engage in and disclose their CSR undertakings.

The healthcare landscape in India faces considerable challenges, with efforts from dedicated medical professionals and caregivers yielding modest progress. The allocation of government expenditure towards healthcare stands at approximately 2.1% of the GDP, a figure notably lower in comparison to similar developing nations. Also, the maternal and infant mortality rates stand at 2.5% and 1.7% respectively, presenting areas for improvement. While there has been a considerable increase in life expectancy, it still lags behind many countries in the global south. Private hospitals offer commendable services, but their accessibility is limited for a majority of the population. On the other hand, public hospitals, though cost-effective, grapple with issues of severe overcrowding and responsiveness.

In addition to the government’s role in providing healthcare services to the public, companies also have a pivotal role to play in advancing healthcare. This can be achieved through their mandatory CSR spending of 2%, which can be directed towards supporting crucial healthcare initiatives. This collaborative effort between the public and private sector holds immense potential for enhancing the overall healthcare landscape in the country.

Companies have demonstrated a noteworthy commitment to healthcare, as highlighted by the data from the National CSR portal. In the fiscal year 2020-21, companies in India directed approximately Rs 7321.55 crores towards healthcare and wellness. However, a substantial portion of these funds went into health camps and hospital construction, which, while valuable, often have a more short-term impact and may not always be precisely focused. Consequently, there is a growing imperative for companies to expand their horizons beyond immediate initiatives and explore innovative strategies to further strengthen the healthcare sector in India.

Pooling Resources for Healthcare Transformation

Addressing the intricate challenges within India’s healthcare system demands a united effort that transcends the capacity of any single organization. To truly make a meaningful impact on healthcare, it is imperative to forge alliances with the government and like-minded entities. Collaborative partnerships among corporations not only stimulate greater innovation but also pave the way for replicable models and the synergistic utilization of each company’s unique strengths and expertise in healthcare. Through collaboration, companies can amplify their individual capabilities, pooling collective intelligence for the betterment of healthcare in India. This collaborative ethos serves as a powerful catalyst in confronting the complexities of healthcare challenges.

Elevating Healthcare Access: CSR Initiatives for a Healthier Tomorrow

Given the aforementioned challenges, it is imperative for companies to explore additional avenues for engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives within the healthcare sector. The following are several key areas where companies could channel their efforts and resources:

Strengthening Primary Healthcare:

Primary healthcare encompasses a wide spectrum of essential services, forming the first line of defense against illnesses and exerting a significant influence on overall healthcare costs. It stands as a fertile ground for the integration of groundbreaking technologies and novel delivery approaches, aiming to resolve numerous cases with minimal clinical intervention and fewer physical hospital visits. Allocating CSR resources towards fortifying our primary healthcare system plays a pivotal role in advancing endeavors to ensure healthcare accessibility for all. By prioritizing aspects such as wellness, nutrition, and mental health, interventions and early detection models can enhance fundamental well-being, fostering a crucial emphasis on hygiene and sanitation within communities. Furthermore, companies can also make strategic investments in telemedicine and other cutting-edge technological solutions to broaden the reach of healthcare services, especially for individuals facing geographical isolation. This forward-thinking approach not only enhances accessibility but also embraces the transformative power of technology in healthcare delivery.

Incentivizing Doctors to Serve Rural Areas:

Companies have the potential to play a pivotal role in alleviating the shortage of healthcare professionals in remote regions. By offering incentives to doctors willing to practice in underserved areas, companies can significantly enhance healthcare accessibility in these communities.

Strengthening Secondary Care Infrastructure:

Investment in technology-driven clinical interventions and workflow enhancements holds the potential to establish accessible and high-quality secondary healthcare infrastructure. By leveraging modern technology and digital tools, healthcare facilities can extend their reach even to the remotest corners of the country. Companies with manufacturing and distribution presence in Tier II and Tier III locations could make substantial contributions towards fostering healthier communities through such investments. Furthermore

Augmenting the Physician Workforce:

India presently grapples with a shortage of well-trained doctors, necessitating concerted efforts to address this gap. Companies could consider subsidizing the education of promising students pursuing careers in medicine. Additionally, collaborations with established medical colleges to expand infrastructure, refine teaching methodologies, and grant access to medical literature can contribute to the production of a more proficient cadre of doctors.

Skill Development:

There exists a critical need to recruit and enhance the skill sets of India’s healthcare workforce. CSR initiatives can provide vital support to various skill development programs that leverage technology as an enabler. This approach not only aids in upskilling the existing healthcare workforce but also enables the delivery of services through assisted technology models. Achieving our goal of inclusivity can be facilitated through the deployment of innovative technology-driven models.

Final Words

India’s CSR mandate has created opportunities for corporate participation in the healthcare sector, yielding numerous benefits for citizens, particularly those in remote areas. Through strategic partnerships and targeted initiatives, corporations have the potential to play a pivotal role in advancing India’s healthcare system, ultimately leading to enhanced well-being and improved health outcomes for all.