Supportive Care – A Benign Catalyst for Economic Growth

Supportive Care - A Benign Catalyst for Economic Growth

Written by Sudhir Pai, Founder and Director, Prameya Health

 

In India, statistics show that the estimated number of people living with cancer is 2.25 mn, more than a million new cancer cases are registered every year and about 800k people die of cancer each year. We all know, Cancer can be devastating in many ways to patients and their families. Today I would like to speak about how a good Supportive care system plays an important role not only in treatment outcomes and quality of life but also health of the entire economy.

Supportive Care - A Benign Catalyst for Economic Growth

Written by Sudhir Pai, Founder and Director, Prameya Health

In India, statistics show that the estimated number of people living with cancer is 2.25 mn, more than a million new cancer cases are registered every year and about 800k people die of cancer each year. We all know, Cancer can be devastating in many ways to patients and their families. Today I would like to speak about how a good Supportive care system plays an important role not only in treatment outcomes and quality of life but also health of the entire economy.

 

First of all, let me explain what supportive care means. In simple terms it can be defined as any assistance which helps the patient improve treatment outcomes and results in a good quality of life. 

 

Globally, there is good infrastructure and specialists now to address the aspects relating to cancer treatment. Unlike other diseases, prevention and management of physical and psycho-social adverse events play a vital role in the medical outcomes and will help considerably improve QOL of a Cancer patient, if addressed at the right time. It can be emotional distress, depression, anxiety, side effects, body image issues, fatigue, insomnia, cognitive decline and so on. Even issues like fertility, reproductive health, sexuality can impact quality of life. All these falls within the ambit of supportive care and is largely unmet due to lack of awareness. 

 

In the last decade several studies have been carried out globally including India on how supportive care is helpful in achieving best medical outcomes and improving QOL post treatment. In all these studies, systematic reviews of non-pharmacological interventions proved that physical exercises like Yoga, Tai-chi, Aerobics, Psychological support, dietary interventions resulted in tremendous improvements in functional and emotional well-being of Cancer survivors. 

 

In India a fledgling study conducted recently on about 350 cancer survivors has shown 100% improvement in anxiety and depression scores following supportive care interventions, definitely warrants larger research and reviews. Addressing these aspects not only helps patients during treatment, but plays a crucial role in preventing, managing side effects of treatment and in the long run, recurrence of the disease.

 

So.. This brings us to one point. If cancer survivors are suitably incentivized to opt for supportive care, who are the beneficiaries? If viewed holistically, the whole community can benefit from supportive care. Lets examine some of them:

 

No doubt the Patient and his family will immensely benefit from this. Cancer treatment is expensive as the duration of treatment is generally long, often requiring multi disciplinary interventions, expensive tests and medications and other logistics. All this puts family finances under severe stress especially if the patient is the sole bread earner in the family. On an average, a family of cancer patient will be poorer by Rs. 2 to 3 lakhs if we account for diagnosis, treatment, logistics, loss of income during treatment and so on. By opting for supportive care, patient and family will be relieved of financial stress that a cancer treatment can bring in.

 

Two.. Medical insurance companies. Out of the top ten medical insurance companies in India, the incurred claim ratios of atleast 5 are either close to 100 or exceeding 100%. This can improve drastically by insisting on supportive care. This can also result in reduced premiums, increased penetration in an under served market like India.

 

Three…Globally 77% of productivity loss is attributed to health related factors. Businesses/ employers can improve productivity of their work force. Less time spent on illness and hospitalisation will automatically lead to better productivity 

 

Four…Ratio of hospital beds to population in India is one of the lowest with a marked skew towards urban areas. The load on Hospitals / healthcare providers will go down with supportive care thereby improving efficiency and better quality care. Healthcare providers are in the best position to guide the patients about the benefits of addressing these unmet needs and encourage them to opt for supportive care.

 

Five…Employment generation in the supportive care industry. A new industry can emerge where Healthcare professionals including doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, nurses, can look at prevention and support rather than treatment alone.

 

Lastly…The whole country will benefit because supportive care will reignite productivity in each of these patients. A person who perceives himself as useless and unproductive, transforms into a productive person like any other and contributes to the economic growth of the country.

 

It is imperative to build an eco-system to ensure patients utilize supportive care services. This will help minimize the incidence of treatment related side effects in functional, emotional and nutritional domains. 

 

Supportive care can act as a catalyst to build healthy communities. Therefore, it becomes responsibility of all the stake holders to guide the society in that direction.

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