NDHM will radically transform health care

National Digital Health Mission

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NDHM
NDHM

National Digital Health Mission (NDHM):

  • The launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) was announced by the Prime Minister on August 15.
  • With NDHM, India has ushered in a new era of technology-enabled health care delivery.
  • The vision of an Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) can only be realised by a “Swasth Bharat” (Healthy India).
  • This requires data integration (across various hospitals, reports etc.) and standardisation as critical health ecosystem enablers.
  • NDHM is initially being rolled out in the six Union territories — Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Ladakh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep. The rest of the country will follow.

Making healthcare inclusive and efficient:

  • NDHM is built on the principles of ensuring greater inclusivity, efficiency and transparency in the health sector.
  • Currently, people find it difficult to maintain multiple paper-based records for health interventions like immunisation, especially over long periods of time, or when they move from one part of the country to another.
  • Yet, these records are critical for monitoring an individual’s health status and ensuring continuity in treatment.
  • The mission aims to simplify access to their records and enables them to share digitally-stored comprehensive health profiles with providers for treatment and follow-up purposes.

Helps more efficient utilisation of existing facilities:

  • It is a fact that the availability of health care infrastructure and service delivery needs to be strengthened across the country.
  • However, with technological empowerment and digitisation, the existing facilities can be more effectively and efficiently utilised.
  • Patients will not be required to carry multiple medical reports in this digital- and patient-friendly ecosystem.
  • Access to patient records will now be just a click away for doctors.

Features of NDHM:

Security, confidentiality and privacy of health records will be of primacy in NDHM:

  • Participation and sharing of data are voluntary, and all efforts have been made to keep the rights of citizens at the core of the mission’s design and objectives.
  • It is understood that maintaining security, confidentiality and privacy of health-related information is vital.
  • The mission’s health and data policies have, therefore, been formulated to ensure privacy and data security.
  • Consent of the patient has been made a priority:
    • The digital identity of patients will be shared with certified doctors only after patients provide their informed consent.
    • The NDHM architecture ensures that health data is encrypted, and that there is no opportunity for anyone to access the records or modify them without the explicit consent of the concerned individual.
    • Patients can determine the time period for which they grant consent and can also revoke consent anytime they wish to.
Unique Health ID to individuals:
  • Under NDHM, all Indians can get access to a unique and easy-to-remember health ID carrying details of their health and treatment history.
  • Through this ID, individuals will not only be able to search for verified hospitals and laboratories, but can also evaluate the quality of services, on the basis of feedback shared by others.
  • This feature can greatly enhance the accountability of health service providers as well as promote the delivery of high-quality services to patients.
Digital identity to healthcare providers:
  • All doctors, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and pharmacies will also be given a digital identity.
  • This will enable:
    • A single and standardised process for completing their identification
    • Certification and audit formalities
    • Allowing providers to focus on the actual delivery of health services, instead of expending time and resources on cumbersome and multiple administrative procedures 
    • Participation for health care providers and establishments under NDHM will also be completely free of cost.
  • Voluntary also for healthcare providers:
    • Participation in NDHM will be voluntary for providers as well.
    • The effort will be to rope in all of them as the more participation there is, the stronger and more integrated the health ecosystem will become. 
Telemedicine will get a boost:
  • Apart from the multiple benefits for patients and health care providers, NDHM will offer services such as telemedicine as part of its digital package.
  • Already, the utilisation of telemedicine has gone up significantly in India following the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Still, there is much scope for connecting doctors with citizens even in the most rural and remote parts of the country, beyond the Covid-19 era as well.
  • By being able to access quality health care advice remotely, travel costs will be saved for patients in several parts of the country and ultimately help to reduce out-of-pocket expenditures.
  • Note: Out-of-pocket expenditures (patient spending his/her own money) currently account for nearly two-thirds of the total health expenditure in India.

Conclusion:

  • Technology is a powerful disruptor that has revolutionised and accelerated the growth of a large number of sectors such as banking.
  • Through the adoption of digital technologies, NDHM will empower the health sector to cater to the country’s large population in a far more efficient manner, through:
    • the standardisation of health records
    • the creation of a unique health identity
    • doorstep delivery of quality medicines at affordable prices
    • tele-consultations with verified medical professionals etc.
  • The launch of NDHM is a new beginning for India’s health sector, with potential to radically transform health care delivery in the country.

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