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Publications

Regulating India's health services: To what end? What future?

Future Health Systems

Peters DH, Muraleedharan VR, Regulating India's health services: To what end? What future? Special Issue of Social Science and Medicine; 2008. Volume 66, Issue 10, Pages 2133-2144

Abstract

India has a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework and large public health delivery system which are disconnected from the realities of health care delivery and financing for most Indians. In reviewing the current bureaucratic approach to regulation, we find an extensive set of rules and procedures, though we argue it has failed in three critical ways, namely to (1) protect the interests of vulnerable groups; (2) demonstrate how health financing meets the public interests; (3) generate the trust of providers and the public. The paper reviews the state of alternative approaches to regulation of health services in India, using consumer and market based approaches, as well as multi-actor and collaborative approaches. We argue that poor regulation is a symptom of poor governance and that simply creating and enforcing the rules will continue to have limited effects. Rather than advocate for better implementation and expansion of the current bureaucratic approach, where Ministries of Health focus on their roles as inspectorate and provider, we propose that India's future health system is more likely to achieve its goals through greater attention to consumer and other market oriented approaches, and through collaborative mechanisms that enhance accountability. Civil society organizations, the media, and provider organizations can play more active parts in disclosing and using information on the use of health resources and the performance of public and private providers. The overview of the health sector would be more effective, if Indian Ministries of Health were to actively facilitate participation of these key stakeholders and the use of information.