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Times of India
8 February, 2010
By Rucha Biju Chitrodia

Accredited healthcare may become a reality
Consumers in search of quality health services and standardised health insurance have reason to hope. The industry and the insurance regulator are in active dialogue with National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH) to broaden the scope of the programme to healthcare in general. At present, the NABH is the only national mark of assurance of a hospital, a nursing home or a blood bank’s quality in the country.

NABH is currently in talks with a committee set up by industry associations such as Ficci and CII. The Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA) is a member of the panel. A senior IRDA official says the regulator supports the initiative because it is in consumers’ interest. “They are very positive and want to go in for an improvement process,” seconds Dr B K Rana, deputy director, NABH.

A few months ago, the NABH accreditation was made compulsory under the central government health scheme. In other words, private hospitals, which wish to provide medical services to central government employees, will have to comply with the criteria of NABH. Ficci director Shobha Mishra says the government has already taken the first step towards standardisation of health services with CGHS. Among the states, Gujarat was the first to have made accreditation mandatory for primary healthcare.

“We are exploring a mechanism whereby accreditation is made mandatory for all new establishments that come up in the country... It is very essential to provide quality healthcare if we want greater penetration of health insurance,” says Mishra and adds that the initiative will get a much–needed push if insurance companies empanel only those hospitals that are accredited. “But insurance companies can give that push only if a sizeable number of hospitals are accredited. The volumes can come in only if the government comes into the picture.”

Last week, a beginning was made in the direction, says Rana, with the ministry of health and family welfare’s announcement that central government employees would be eligible for insurance only if they get admitted to an accredited hospital.

NABH has, so far, accredited 43 hospitals and around 350 are in the offing. Three nursing homes have received accreditation and 80 more are in the pipeline. “We are now going to start medical imaging programme as well as accreditation for dental centres. From January 4, we started covering ayush (ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) hospitals too,” says Rana.

NABH and industry chambers regularly conduct workshops and seminars to popularise the concept of standardised healthcare among both hospitals and consumers.

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