India’s focus on medical tourism notwithstanding, just one per cent of all hospitals/nursing homes put together in the country has come forward to obtain the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) accreditation that emphasises on patient safety aspects and stringent quality assessment norms.
There are about 79,000 hospitals in the public and private sector in the country. Nearly 1,000 hospitals have applied and are in the process of being reviewed on quality parameters, as per the website of the NABH, a constituent board of Quality Council of India, set up to establish and operate accreditation programme for healthcare organisations.
"Unfortunately, even after 12 years of the establishment of the NABH, less than 700 hospitals have bagged accreditation tag till date, which accounts for only 1 per cent of hospitals/nursing homes put together," said Dr Girdhar J Gyani, a well-known quality expert and brain behind NABH standards.
Gyani, who now heads the Association of Healthcare Providers, said that at a time when the Government is promoting medical tourism and is in the midst of announcing new policy in this regard, it is also important that it ensures best professional operational framework in hospitals.
According to a paper by FICCI and QuintilesIMS, over 5,00,000 foreign patients seek treatment in India each year. SAARC countries such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Maldives are the major sources of medical value travel, followed by African countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. Proximity, cultural connect and connectivity are the key reasons for inflow of patients to India from these regions.
If India is to made healthcare destination then it is also important that that people are made aware of the best healthcare services they are entitled to at every stage from consultation to complete treatment in hospitals and clinics, Gyani said.
The NABH accreditation which involves around 636 elements related to patient care and infection-free ambience that would instill confidence among patients, particularly foreign patients.
Gyani welcomed the recent Insurance Regulator and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) move mandating 33,000 hospitals empanelled with it to meet the pre-accreditation entry-level standards laid down by the NABH within two years.
He said that in the West, 80 per cent of hospitals have insurance schemes which has prompted the hospitals to adopt best healthcare standards. In India, we hope the IRDAI move would drive the hospitals to ensure NABH tag and in the process better patient-care.
He talked about the three-layer certification process of the NABH. last year, entry-level certification was introduced to ensure small and medium-sized hospitals follow a set of minimum required norms for offering effective health care services.
Unhappy at the poor response of the hospitals towards NABH accreditation, Dr KK Kalra, CEO, NABH said it was time that we move from voluntary accreditation of health delivery institutions to a mandatory system as being done by many developed nations.
"We have already mooted the proposal of mandatory accreditation of hospitals and asked the Medical Council of India (MCI) to use its powers to direct all medical colleges with hospitals in India to get accredited," he said.