With pilots apace, health ‘UPI’ rollout ‘soon’

T V Jayan New Delhi | Updated on August 21, 2020

Every enrolling person to get ID card with all health info embedded, says

The pilots for the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) are already apace, and once the government gets feedback it will be rolled out across the country in a couple of months, a top National Health Authority (NHA) official has said.

“This will be more like the UPI, the platform created by the government for financial services and operated through the Bhim app... But will be far more complicated,” Praveen Gedam, Additional CEO of NHA, told BusinessLine.

“The mission will have three major modules — all owned and operated by the government. Every person enrolling will get a health ID and all the health data of that person will be linked to that ID so that the longitudinal medical history of the person is available at one place,” Gedam said

The second module is DigiDoctor, which is a database of doctors, and the third a healthcare facility registry with a database of facilities, including hospitals, clinics and labs. This will range from tertiary hospitals to primary health centres and sub-centres, he said. Many more modules can be built on them, which could be operated by the public or the private sector, he added.

Asked if entering medical data of each patient into the system would not be an additional burden for medical professionals, who are already hard-pressed, Gedam said many private and government hospitals are already doing it. “We are incorporating many special features in the module, which will allow them to scan a report or enter hand-written prescriptions or even those using universally accepted medical nomenclature,” Gedam said.

About the pilots, he said: “Doctors and government hospitals in the UTs of Ladakh, Chandigarh, Dadra Nagar & Haveli, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands have started the process of enrolment. The process of enrolment will be voluntary not just for individuals but even for doctors and hospitals. Respective authorities have the right to take the decision whether to join or not, he said.

Data security issues

Agreeing that “electronic health record (EHR) can help bring in better clinical care quality, patient safety, efficiency, savings and well-informed public health measures,” Oommen C Kurian, a Senior Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation, said: “As of now, the patient case history is often solely dependent on the memory of the patient or his/her family members.”

“Once EHR comes into play, clinical decision making won’t be the same again. It will also enable enhanced portability of care, and people will have more control over their health information,” he said.

However, Kurian flagged the risk of data privacy and monetising medical information.

But Gedam insisted that the NHA is taking all precautions to ensure data privacy and security.

Suresh Munuswamy, who heads Technology Innovation and Health Informatics at the Public Health Foundation of India, however, said that there could be more challenges. For one, he said, when a person buys medicines using the health ID card, there should be a way to record it. “The primary packaging of medicines in India currently doesn’t have a barcode, unlike all other sundry products.”


Published on August 21, 2020

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