Creating the Regulatory Framework for eHealth


Sunil Sharma,
Joint Secretary, Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), Government of India

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare is seriously looking at bringing Electronic Health Record (EHR) system in the country to build a right kind of ecosystem in healthcare, says Sunil Sharma, Joint Secretary, Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), Government of India, in an interaction with Arpit Gupta of Elets News Network (ENN)

In 2010, the Organisation for Economic Corporation Development (OECD) had identified four core objectives of ICT implementation in healthcare in a survey

(a) to increase the quality and efficiency of care
(b) to reduce the cost of clinical services
(c) to reduce administrative cost of running healthcare system, and
(d) to introduce entirely new models of healthcare delivery

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has undertaken a lot of eHealth initiatives aligning them with Digital India programme, along with the aforesaid objectives.

On eHealth front, the Government of India is working on creation of eHealth records. This is going to be one of the major emphasis areas. Of course the task is quite challenging as the records are currently not available in electronic form. The health and medical records are kept fragmented and also a bit of it is in manual form.

Mobile Apps: We have launched a large number of mobile apps to encourage good and healthy living, to educate and inform people how to have cleanliness and avoid spread of diseases, and also to help them know about the common symptoms of diseases and seek advice required that time. For public health system in India, we have taken several initiatives including Mother and Child Care system. A lot of healthcare provisions have been made under this scheme to deal with the entire pregnancy lifecycle.

National eHealth Portal: The Government has launched a national health portal in which all these applications and a lot more information would be available for people. On a whole, preventive and promotive aspects of health are addressed out there.

Telemedicine: We are also focusing on Telemedicine in which the focus is to deliver healthcare in the remote areas where doctors are not available. Patients can seek specialty input and consultation using this facility. The gain is not just in the form of expert opinion with respect to the particular case of the patient but also with respect to the doctor sitting in the district hospital itself. It is a professional learning for him. It has two fold advantages.

NeHA: Having health records in electronic format needs regulation. The very idea behind National eHealth Authority (NeHA) was to provide the same as well as to promote electronic health records as well. Some actions have already been taken for this purpose. A draft has been prepared in this regard and national consultation is being sought with the Central Government and all stakeholders including state governments.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) standards have been notified in 2013 by the Government of India. It would certainly provide help in continuity of care and also much better help to the common people who have to avail the health services. EHR is available electronically and is interoperable across hospitals and may be across countries. The Ministry is very seriously looking and considering how to bring electronic health record system in the country.

The need of the hour is to build an ecosystem which is collaborative encompassing all stakeholders and players covering the multiple dimensions of healthcare.

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