In May 2020, India had tabled a resolution at the World Health Organisation (WHO) for mHealth (Utilization of mobiles and wireless technologies to accomplish health goals), which was supported by more than 30 nations. It indicates India’s purpose to be a worldwide pioneer in Digital Health.

Digital Health has the potential to transform how the population interacts with national health services and reinforce the health system. India is presently embarking on a revolutionary journey to connect the health care divide among the haves and the have-nots by utilizing digital health tools.

In the event of the 74th anniversary of the nation’s Independence, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced the National Digital Health Mission, giving each Indian citizen a unique health ID, digitized health records, and also a registry of doctors and health facilities. Digital health ID will be in the form of a mobile application or website and will help in improving the proficiency, adequacy, and transparency of health service delivery.

The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), comes under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY).

The objective of NDHM is to provide effectiveness, accessibility, comprehensiveness, security, and save time and money in meeting the healthcare needs of a nation of 1.38 billion people. The digitization of the populace’s health information into a single database is an essential step toward improving public health delivery, but also a noteworthy achievement for issues like treatment of pandemics, and obviously, everything related to biomedical research.

The initiative is quite significant, as it will be a voluntary healthcare programme that would diminish the gaps between the stakeholders such as doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, and citizens. It will unite them and connect them to an integrated digital healthcare framework. The mission further will be a vital step towards the accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 of Universal Health Coverage, including financial risk safety. NDHM consists of six fundamental building blocks or digital systems to be specific HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy, and Telemedicine.

All of these digital products, except for e-Pharmacy and Telemedicine, have been organized and are ready for action. Furthermore, stakeholders will have an equal opportunity amalgamate with these building blocks and make their products for the market. However, the main activities and verifications will remain with the government.

Additional elements such as Personal Health Record (PHR) and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) solutions can be formed by private players, too, as per the rules that will be issued.

The crucial feature of the initiative is the technology part, and it will influence the open digital system to provide top-notch healthcare to all. It will also incorporate several digital health services to develop an ecosystem that can assimilate the existing health information systems. The government has mentioned that it will guarantee the security and privacy of personal information.

NDHM will be implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA), the appended office of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which will design, formulate, and roll out. The scheme would initially be tried on a pilot basis in the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Ladakh, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep.

India is an enormous, growing nation, and its healthcare needs are colossal. Advanced health care expertise is concentrated in substantial urban areas. The vast populace with healthcare needs is geographically inaccessible from such expertise and facilities. Another challenge is the security of personal data.

India, a nation where this sort of issue could have immense consequences, appears to be ready to turn into the world’s most prominent laboratory for privacy issues. On account of healthcare, this could be combined with trends, for example, those pinned points by the Singaporean government viewing the utilization of wearables as real-time health monitors, with an idea of providing a genuinely proactive system and possible early diagnosis of a decent number of ailments. Such a system would result not just in a lessening in the suffering caused by late response to numerous diseases, but also in lowering treatment costs.

Nonetheless, several developed countries have developed models of digital health with excess and waste, even have reaped the benefits of digitization. India, as set out for an almost greenfield health care digitization binge, the country should take lessons from their experience. The country should not commit similar infrastructural mistakes as this would financially devastating, given India’s scale. Therefore it is essential to have the veterans of the industry, technology, and business using needful and future-proof technologies in generating the model of digital health care, which is set to experience a revolution, and digitalization will contribute most to this.

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

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