A National Tele Mental Health Programme is being launched to address mental health issues. We spoke to healthcare industry leaders who shared their outlook
The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of a large section of our population. Most of the issues remain unaddressed and it has accentuated mental health problems in people across age groups. In order to address this issue, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed the setting up of a National Tele Mental Health Programme to be launched in partnership with Bengaluru based National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS).
She also added that an open platform for national digital health ecosystem will be rolled out and it will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identities and universal access to health facilities.
We share the outlook of healthcare industry leaders on the budget proposals.
Sudarshan Jain, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA)
“This is India's first post vaccination budget and the policy consistency is maintained. The planned increase in capital expenditure is likely to boost economic growth and employment. There is a thrust on macro areas like digital, VC-ecosystem, ease of doing business and supportive measures for R&D and industry-academia collaboration with pharma included in the sunrise sectors. The extension time limit for the commencement of business to claim benefits of concessional tax regime for manufacturing companies has been extended by a year to 31 March 2024. This will support the investment in pharma manufacturing. Details are being examined and the implementation will be key going forward.”
Neerja Birla, Founder and Chairperson, Mpower
“The Government has recognised the mental health crisis, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, in the Union Budget. The setting up of a national tele mental health programme is a welcome move, and will go a long way in helping people of all ages to access quality mental health. Today, having a platform where people can voice their concerns freely, and safely is the first step towards mental wellness, and I am confident that with this, India will be able to bring about a much needed change in society.”
Vinod Jain, CFO,Cadila Pharmaceuticals
“A growth and development-oriented budget with focus on infrastructure, transport & logistic, manufacturing, education, health, and digital economy. The budget emphasizes supportive policies, regulations, and ease of doing business to build domestic capacities, promote R&D and generate employment opportunities which will ensure sustainable growth for the country in years to come. Launch of the National digital health Eco System and National Tele Mental Health Programme will go a long way to serve health care needs of society.”
Vani Mania, Country Managing Director at Boehringer Ingelheim India
“It is heartening that the Union Budget 2022 identifies Genomics and Pharmaceuticals as ‘sunrise’ sectors. This would enable well-rounded development beyond employment and access to enhanced industry efficiencies and competitiveness, which will go a long way in attracting increased investments in biopharmaceutical innovation.
Our progress in research and development is inextricably linked to fostering a culture of innovation. Allowing for additional provisions towards establishing a stronger IPR ecosystem in the country is imperative to improve the Ease of Doing Index in India and further propel FDI in the pharmaceutical sector.
The proposal to increase contribution towards the National Health Mission by Rs 2,853 crore reflects continued emphasis on access to quality healthcare. While the emphasis on digital investments is encouraging, an integral component would also need to include healthcare infrastructure and medical skill building at all levels.”
Subhamoy Dastidar, Director, AtEase
“As a strong ally of mental health, it's gratifying to see that mental health has got a rare mention in Union Budget 2022-23. This shows the government's acceptance and concern towards holistic health and not just physical health which has been brought to the fore by the pandemic. The proposed National Tele-Mental Health program will be indeed a strong step towards supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society at large. Post pandemic, especially since 2020 mental health issues are no more considered an urban phenomenon but have spread across small towns in India and need to make mental health services more accessible is bigger than ever.”
Tarun Gupta, Co-founder, LISSUN
“As a result of the pandemic, a lot of entrepreneurs had stepped forward to address the challenge of rising mental health issues in India. The cases of depression and anxiety disorders witnessed an increase of about 25% globally, and by 35% in India alone. The National Mental Health Programme and Health and Wellness Centres alone could not have reached every individual in the crisis that they might face struggling in a moment. The easy access was the primary point of concern for everyone trying to help towards the issue. The government has recognised this, and addressed the same by launching Tele mental health service.”
Dr Preet Pal Thakur, Co-founder GlamyoHealth
“The primary challenge in delivering fine health services was the lack of awareness and access. A person sitting in tier 2 city might not even know about the presence of a probable medical facility to his current challenge. With the launch of the open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem this particular gap will be filled in a single go. As the Budget mentioned, the platform will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, which will serve the purpose of access and availability of information."
Mythri Macherla, AVP & Sector Head, Corporate Sector Ratings, ICRA
“Given that one-time healthcare costs during the second wave of Covid-19 are expected to have bumped up the expenditure in FY2022 and assuming that there are no severe waves in FY2023, the increased allocation (growth of 16.1%) as against the FY2022 budgeted estimates is a welcome move. While allocation towards National Health Mission continues to remain flattish, increase in allocation towards Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission is expected to increase health coverage in FY2023. That said, continuing modest allocation towards the healthcare sector would make it challenging for the government to meet its target of public sector healthcare investment of 2.5% of the GDP by 2025.”
Dr Vispi Jokhi, Chief Executive Officer, Masina Hospital, Mumbai
“As a leader in the mental health service scenario in Mumbai we welcome the initiative with regards to the availability of the National Tele Mental Health Program. A thrust to facilitate the objective treatment packages covered by medical insurance in the field of mental health was something we expected in this budget. Also, we are pleased to be a part of the National Digital Health Mission. The initiative on speedy vaccination has been long overdue and universal availability of vaccination for all sections of the population is needed. Disappointed that there has still been no increase in healthcare budget as a proportion of GDP. Lastly, in view the difficult times which healthcare industry has faced in the last two years some support in terms of concessions in developing compliance infrastructure related to fire and other safety norms was expected."
Rajiv Mistry, Founder & Managing Director, Ascent Group
“The government has laid out an ambitious vision for Healthcare. The announcement of the National Digital Health Ecosystem which will be an open platform that will capture all the stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem, backed by a unique health ID will help form a robust network to map and rollout healthcare facilities to all and improve accessibility.
Also, the National Tele Mental Health programme will bring into focus the relegated sector of mental health. It is encouraging to see that mental health will be dealt with at an institutional scale across India, by roping in both NIMHANS and IIIT-Bengaluru for the tech-support.”
Sanjeev Dahiwadkar, Founder & CEO of Cognota Healthcare
“The Union Budget 2022 has taken many steps in putting healthcare at the centre of India’s approach to power its future growth. The proposal of launching a National Tele Mental Health Programme is a move in the right direction. Proposal to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem is also a welcome move. However, with the non-reduction of the GST on medical devices and the lack of tax rationalisation of healthcare services, the government has missed an opportunity to make healthcare affordable for billions of citizens.”
Anish Bafna, CEO & MD, Healthium Medtech
“We welcome a progressive and growth oriented budget for FY 22-2023, under the continued mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat. We are delighted with the government’s initiative for encouraging sunrise sectors like Medtech with the promotion of thematic funds for blended finance. Increased investments in infrastructure will help improve supply chain and aid customer access. Custom duty exemptions on medical devices and revision of tariff structures for manufacturing intermediates will strengthen India’s supply chains for a global hub in medical devices. The open platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem will benefit health providers and care givers with universal access to healthcare facilities. The budget rightly calls out the need for an increased focus on mental health. The launch of the National Tele-Mental Health Service with the support of NIMHANS and IIT Bangalore, will be widely appreciated by the essential services sector.”
Devangana Mishra, Founder & CEO, Brain Bristle
“The focus on mental health wellness addressed in the Union Budget 2022 is a positive and healthy showcase of the receptiveness and awareness towards mental health in India today. The proposed framework of the National Tele Mental Health Program to create a holistic national and digitally led ecosystem of healthcare providers, mental healthcare counseling and care services and centers is a great step forward to address and access education and information and create awareness and positive attitude towards mental health which saw an exponential surge during the unprecedented pandemic times. Understanding disability, mental health, intellectual disability in the context of privilege and minority is important. I think we have arrived at a phase in India wherein we cannot look to ‘mental health’ as a form of charity. We need to look at addressing the conversation and actions around mental health as a medium to create empowerment and strength in our society. We need to deeply care about allocating not just budget in quantity but in the highest quality above all. Apart from allocating millions to expand mental health as a facility, we need to make it strategic, sharp and focused to make sure everyone works towards empowerment and inclusivity in our society.”
Dr. Ananth N Rao - Chief Operating Officer - IHH Healthcare, India
“This year’s budget has highlighted more on the Digital Health Ecosystem which played an important role during the pandemic. According to the budget announced by FM Nirmala Sitharaman an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will be soon rolled out, connecting the health facilities, health providers and majorly universal access to health facilities. Currently, the e-health market size has gained advantage during the pandemic and showcased a lot of our tech prowess. Ove 600 e-Hospitals were established across India as part of the central government's ‘Digital India’ initiative.”
Mayank Banerjee, co-founder and CEO, Even Healthcare
“We’re keen to see the creation of the National Digital Health Ecosystem and how it will aid in making healthcare framework more transparent and information about healthcare providers more accessible. Launching of National Tele Mental Health Program is a positive move especially in the wake of the pandemic where isolation, loss of jobs and normalcy increased levels of anxiety and mental health disorders.”
Rohan Verma, Co-founder CEO, Breathe Well-being
“The FM has acknowledged the role played by tech led health services throughout the course of the ongoing pandemic. The government is focusing even more than ever to ensure that the healthcare infrastructure of the country continues to strengthen by collaborating with new age health tech companies. As a health tech company, which helps people reverse type 2 diabetes, mental well-being is an important pillar of our programme. We are keen on exploring this further once the fine print comes out. If there is a scope to collaborate with any of the stakeholders, we believe we will bring the right know-how to the table.”
Dr Satyender Goel, Founder & CEO - India Health Link
“Union Budget 2022-23 has given healthcare a much-needed digital push. Rolling out an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem, setting up of National TeleHealth Mental Scheme, incentivising start-ups, which would include health, and ‘Drone Shakti’ are innovative ideas and in the right direction.
To further push the digital mission, it is vital for the government to partner with the private sector and use the technological innovations coming from creative start-ups in the field. A point noteworthy is the ‘Drone Shakti’ – a plan to encourage drone technology. This could be used in multiple ways in the healthcare segment too. The proposed National Tele Health Scheme involving Bengaluru-based NIMHANS shows the importance given by the government to a large segment of population that was stressed out following the pandemic and is part of what the Finance Minister said about "empathy for the pandemic-hit population".
The National Digital Health Ecosystem may help accelerate the regular screening for NCDs across urban and rural PHCs being piloted through National Health Mission & National Urban Health Mission to catch up on the lost time during the Covid pandemic emergency. Incorporating the NCDs clinics in line with Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with wellness centres or at PHCs may be promising."
Kulin Shah, COO & Co-Founder- Onsurity
“FM's budget speech addressed the much needed impetus for promoting digital economy and fintech with the GOI committed to strengthening the abilities of the poor. The opportunity for correcting tax errors for upto 2 years and support to startups are also welcome decisions. We also welcome the move to have a national telehealth program in light of the mental health crisis induced by the pandemic. It will be interesting to see what the Government has planned for the National Digital Health Ecosystem, we look forward to its alignment to the Universal Health Coverage and aim to support the initiative with our technology and services."
Sigal Atzmon, Founder & CEO, Medix Global
“With response to the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Finance Minister has accorded special attention to the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission which is set to roll out this year. And in its ongoing endeavor to digitise healthcare, which is reflective in the launch and execution of platforms such as Aarogya Setu and CoWin, the government has put further emphasis on the need to make digitisation a central pillar for making healthcare accessible across the country in this Budget announcement as well. Launch of new initiatives such as The National Digital Health Ecosystem and National Tele Mental Health Programme, further echo this sentiment.”
Apurv Agrawal, Co-Founder, Avni
“The pandemic has unravelled a lot of loopholes in the Indian healthcare system. Certainly, health was to stay a priority in the budget. The Budget announced the launch of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem . This will provide easy access to the available health facilities and health providers. Absence of the right information had created a ruckus during the first and second wave of covid. We are glad that the government took note of the same and has now resolved the challenge too.”
Rohini Rajeev, Founder & Clinical Head, The Able Mind
“The fact that the government has stepped up when everyone is in dire need of professional counseling support, and recognised the need for mental health care in this year's budget, is an absolute winner. The rollout of the tele-consultation services by NIMHANS is going to be the beginning of a whole new approach to understanding and recognising mental health in India.
Covid-19 has created havoc in the minds of people across the world as we battle uncertainty and new fears, while trying all the while to hold on to what is dear to us and continue doing what needs to be done. Mental health care should not be an afterthought and this special mention in the budget is an optimistic beginning to what could be the start of a new era of government-backed mental health policies and supportive services. Not just this, it is a huge step in recognising that every once in a while even the strongest person needs a shoulder to lean on and it is okay to ask for help.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter & Stay Updated