Indian healthcare services sector is booming with corporate hospitals expanding their network to tier II/III cities and the sector is also increasingly attracting venture capital investments, according to a senior executive of an MNC that has a significant exposure to this sector.
Richard Guest, Country Lead, Siemens Healthcare- India, says that there are "emerging markets outside India" like sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, etc. where tertiary healthcare is still under development and Indian healthcare service providers could look at opportunities in these regions.
Responding to questions from Business Line , Richard Guest said the size of the Indian healthcare imaging market was around Rs 2,000 crore and it was growing in double digits.
As his company is the "market leader in most of the segments" in which it operates, Siemens would "definitely like to grow with the market".
Richard Guest expected private healthcare providers to continue to dominate this segment. Investments in advanced technologies are being made and the improved penetration of healthcare insurance and growing awareness about preventive health check-ups have also greatly helped.
He said his company was the "only integrated diagnostic company" that offered in-vitro and in-vivo diagnosis which gave it "an edge in the healthcare market". He said Siemens catered to the country’s diverse healthcare demands – from the world’s only molecular MR system called Biograph MMR to basic X-ray systems and CT scanners and from a hi-end lab automation system that can perform 100,000 tests per day to providing urine strips.
Asked about the foray of Indian healthcare providers to overseas destinations (Bangalore-based Narayana Hrudalaya has opened a hospital in Cayman Islands in the Caribbean) and whether this trend will accelerate, Guest said this was an "encouraging trend" and it served as an "evidence of the maturity of healthcare technology installations in India-based hospitals".
Asked whether the installation of Siemens Acuson Freestyle Ultrasound system at the KG Hospital in Coimbatore pointed to increasing adoption of modern technology by hospitals even in tier II or tier III cities, he said Acuson Freestyle eliminated the cables and also helped the user to operate the transducers up to three metres away from the system "without compromising the sterile field, providing a more ergonomic environment for physicians". It can also expand ultrasound to new and emerging applications, such as administering "nerve blocks, enhancing vascular access, and improving target localisation through ultrasound guidance during therapeutic interventions and biopsies".
He said KG Hospital was the "first healthcare provider in India" to have installed it.
Siemens had also installed in another Coimbatore hospital (PSG Hospital) SOMATOM Definition Edge CT Scanner with Stellar detector technology which was also "the first installation of Asia". Stellar detector technology significantly reduced electronic noise to provide for "uncompromised image quality at very low dose rates to scan patients", making it a safe scanner "even for children and infants".
He said with this single source CT scanner, it was now possible for doctors to visualise structures up to 0.3 mm in size even in routine examinations – "in fact, cardiac stents smaller than 3 mm size can be viewed".
Dr G. Bakthavathsalam, Chairman, KG Hospital, Coimbatore, referring to the cost of Siemens' equipment installed in his hospital, said that it depended on the "number of probes and the software used". It would be approximately Rs 30 lakh to Rs 40 lakh, depending on the accessories and configuration. As it was a "cable-less and wireless transducer", it could be kept at a distance of 12 feet by the doctor in a sterile condition. The machine was helpful in the operation theatres for operating on the brain, liver and also in the interventional and pain relieving departments.
He said that any innovation in the medical field "is worth its weight in gold" as it made an early and accurate diagnosis possible, creating a "safe environment" for the patients.
In the six months ended March 2014 (Siemens follows October-September financial year format) the contribution of healthcare business to Siemens' turnover increased to Rs 651.10 crore compared to Rs 513.11 crore in the same period in the previous fiscal. Guest, when asked whether this growth indicated a revival in investment in the sector in India, declined to comment as the company is in the silent period ahead of announcing on August 13 the results for the quarter ending June 30, 2014.