Assessment of Universal Healthcare Coverage in a District of North India: A Rapid Cross-Sectional Survey Using Tablet Computers

Type Journal Article - PloS one
Title Assessment of Universal Healthcare Coverage in a District of North India: A Rapid Cross-Sectional Survey Using Tablet Computers
Volume 11
Issue 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016

A rapid survey was carried out in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar District of Punjab state in India to ascertain health seeking behavior and out-of-pocket health expenditures.


Using multistage cluster sampling design, 1,008 households (28 clusters x 36 households in each cluster) were selected proportionately from urban and rural areas. Households were selected through a house-to-house survey during April and May 2014 whose members had (a) experienced illness in the past 30 days, (b) had illness lasting longer than 30 days, (c) were hospitalized in the past 365 days, or (d) had women who were currently pregnant or experienced childbirth in the past two years. In these selected households, trained investigators, using a tablet computer-based structured questionnaire, enquired about the socio-demographics, nature of illness, source of healthcare, and healthcare and household expenditure. The data was transmitted daily to a central server using wireless communication network. Mean healthcare expenditures were computed for various health conditions. Catastrophic healthcare expenditure was defined as more than 10% of the total annual household expenditure on healthcare. Chi square test for trend was used to compare catastrophic expenditures on hospitalization between households classified into expenditure quartiles.


The mean monthly household expenditure was 15,029 Indian Rupees (USD 188.2). Nearly 14.2% of the household expenditure was on healthcare. Fever, respiratory tract diseases, gastrointestinal diseases were the common acute illnesses, while heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and respiratory diseases were the more common chronic diseases. Hospitalizations were mainly due to cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and accidents. Only 17%, 18%, 20% and 31% of the healthcare for acute illnesses, chronic illnesses, hospitalizations and childbirth was sought in the government health facilities. Average expenditure in government health facilities was 16.6% less for acute care, 15% less for hospitalization and 50% less for childbirth than in the private healthcare facilities. Out-of-pocket expenditure was mostly on medicines followed by diagnostic and laboratory tests. Among households experiencing hospitalization, 56.5% had incurred catastrophic expenditures, which was significantly higher in the poorest compared to richest household expenditure quartile (p <0.002).


Expenditure on healthcare remains high in Punjab state of India. Efforts to increase utilization of the public sector could decrease out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure.

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