I was fortunate enough to visit Kolkata in November 2017 to discuss the application of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) with academics from Calcutta University, the Institute for Development Studies Kolkata, Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, the National Sample Survey Organisation and the Institute of Public Health in Kalyani.
Whilst in town I was invited to give seminars at the Department of Economics at the University of Calcutta and the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata. I was also inducted into the vibrant academic community that frequents the historical ‘College Street Coffee House’ where I spent many happy hours being schooled in the finer details of the Indian health system.
Out of pocket spending on healthcare in India is pervasive and can be impoverishing for those most vulnerable. For HTA to contribute towards achieving Universal Health Coverage in India it must embrace the goals of reducing out of pocket expenditure and tackling health inequality, as well as improving population health overall. For this to happen HTA will need to find a role in mediating the complex interactions between the various healthcare financing schemes and the heterogeneous array of healthcare providers in the country. This will require HTA to be embraced by policy makers at both central and state government levels; and given the teeth to make binding recommendations to shape these interactions.
A further challenge of applying HTA in India is that at present there appears to be limited capacity for analysts to undertake health technology assessments; and for policy makers to interpret these assessments. These areas could be developed with the introduction of training courses at strategic institutions across the country.
I would like to extend a special thanks to Sumit Mazumdar, Papiya Mazumdar, Santanu Tripathi, Arijita Dutta, Achin Chakraborty, Onkar Prosad Ghosh and seminar participants from the Department of Economics at the University of Calcutta and the Institute for Development Studies Kolkata for their intriguing questions, insightful comments and generous hospitality.