On the occasion of the 74th anniversary of India’s independence, Prime Minister announced the National Digital Health Mission, giving every Indian citizen a unique health ID, digitized health records, as well as a registry of doctors and health facilities.
- The government has provided power in the hands of the patients by making them the focal point of its initiative; this will improve the quality of health care provided to citizens as the NDHM’s vision is to create a national digital health ecosystem that supports universal health coverage in an efficient, accessible, inclusive, affordable, timely and safe manner. Thus it will provide a hassle free experience to the patients as all their data is stored in one place.
- The strategy document also mentions that in the upcoming stages, e-pharmacies and telemedicine services will also be provided on this platform. This step will not only bring inclusivity & equality in health care to the masses by providing access to experienced doctors and avail to quality low-cost generic medicines to patients from small towns and cities but also bridge the urban-rural divide.
- Further reducing healthcare cost is one of the major targets of NDHM & technology will play a pivotal role in this aspect by making healthcare affordable in the country. This will help overcome the travelling cost for a patient which is the main factor that increases medical cost the country.
- Thus through the NDHM, the doctors will also be able to analyze the data to learn disease patterns, predict onset of ailments and suggest seasonal outbreaks which in turn will bring effectiveness and transparency in healthcare delivery overall.
- Also the element of transparency will further push for accountability & efficient delivery from the government side, thus it will bring about good governance in the country.
- The biggest challenge in developing such a system lies in data security. This can be seen from the prism of Aadhar which was met with several structural failures & privacy issues. Thus a similar problem with the health data can prove to be yet again disastrous for India because unauthorized access to health record comes in contravention with fundamental right to privacy.
- Digital literacy & accessibility of digital records is a particular concern in rural areas. Thus without adequate training to the healthcare workers in digital technology, this mission is bound to fail.
- This coupled with the fact that most villages do not have the required digital infrastructure which is necessary or rather the main crux of this mission. Further fast & efficient internet connectivity in backward regions proves to be another major roadblock in the successful implementation.
- Further with respect to electronic health records (EHR), a report by the Ministry of electronics and information technology, “titled Adoption of EHR: A Roadmap for India” had highlighted that hospitals and dispensaries had limited information and communications technology infrastructure with only a few major public hospitals having computers and connectivity.
- Further ineffective implementation due to lack of technological know-how or infrastructure will be a major hindrance in the success of this mission.
- An appropriate digital consent framework as per standards specified by NDHB by leveraging DigiLocker is a good step.
- Concerns with respect to privacy of data must be dealt with efficiently & on priority basis in order to boost the implementation of this mission.
- Digital India mission must be implemented efficiently to provide digital infrastructure in far-flung areas so that better facility is accessible to all.
- The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), which comes under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY), is expected to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health services in the country.
- NDHM, which comprises six essential digital building blocks such as Health ID, DigiDoctor, health facility registry, personal health records, e-pharmacy and telemedicine.
- In 2018, the NITI Aayog introduced the National Health Stack (NHS), which is a digital arrangement aimed at developing a clearer and sturdier health insurance system.
- DigiLocker is an online service provided by Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), under its Digital India initiative. DigiLocker provides an account in cloud to every Aadhar holder to access authentic documents/certificates such as driving license, vehicle registration, and academic mark sheet in digital format from the original issuers of these certificates.
- It also provides 1GB storage space to each account to upload scanned copies of legacy documents.