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NDHM gets a thumbs up from the experts, wants successful implementation

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Launching the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) on the 74th Independence Day from the rampart of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said “NDHM will bring a new revolution in the healthcare segment and every Indian will get a unique health ID card”.

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“Every Indian will get a Health ID card. Every time you visit a doctor or a pharmacy, everything will be logged in this health card. From the doctor’s appointment to the medication advised, everything will be available in your health profile,” PM Modi said.

Commenting on this landmark announcement, the healthcare experts have informed that it is a good step forward and the key to its effectiveness lies in its successful implementation.

Informing that launch of NDHM is significant in moving India’s Healthcare to the next level, Charu Sehgal, Partner and Lifesciences and Healthcare Industry Leader, Deloitte India, said, “Apart from the obvious advantage of convenience for the patient, given that he/she will not need to store and carry old records, it will be a boon for those who relocate for work. Given that remote doctor consultation will continue even after the pandemic ends, the digital access to patient data can be a game changer leading to a more effective diagnosis. Most importantly, this will improve access by providing a big boost to consultation through telemedicine with specialist doctors for patients in smaller towns and remote locations . Providing a unique identification to doctors as well as health facilities can lead to streamlining several issues of quality and accountability. Data confidentiality will of course need to be ensured.”

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Also read: PM Modi announces National Digital Health Mission on 74th Independence Day

“NDHM will help the society and healthcare providers to have a single window access to health data of its citizens, opening up avenues for a systematic model of identifying the beneficiaries of Prime Minister’s Ayushman Bharat scheme. Facilitating the health data of the population to the research community will also help accelerate medical research in the country. The flagship programmes of the government such as tuberculosis schemes can also be integrated with the NDHM, and beneficiaries can be issued unique health IDs, which in turn will streamline healthcare for everyone,” said Aishwarya Vasudevan, Chief Operating Officer, Neuberg Diagnostics.

Giving the hospital perspective, Dr. NandKumar Sundaram, Senior Consultant, Trauma & Orthopaedic Surgeon, Fortis Malar Hospital, “The introduction of the Health ID card for all Indians will help create standardization and uniformity of India’s healthcare management system. Digital privacy should be strictly maintained and handled with care at all times to ensure no misuse of information I hope that insurance premiums should not affect anyone with pre-existing diseases.Linking the health ID card with nationalized health schemes can be a useful and reasonable option for the lower-income groups.”

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical, India’s leading consumer healthcare brand, said, “The COVID pandemic has exposed the severe challenges the healthcare system faces world over. In India, with a very low level of standardization, there is hardly any sharing of healthcare information, no central database or registry, and access to healthcare facilities has been a problem. In this context, the NDHM initiative is a very welcome move that addresses all the aspects comprehensively. Coming on top of the success of other digital initiatives such as Aadhar, UPI, BHIM; having a national digital health ecosystem will help usher in universal health coverage. This is sorely needed in India and will lead to more accessible, affordable, and inclusive health care when implemented. The digitization of medical records and other healthcare data would enable in making treatment and monitoring even more effective for non-institutional healthcare providers, particularly home-based caregivers and telemedicine providers. The integration of various government schemes such as Ayushman Bharat into the new system will make it easier to determine a patient’s medical coverage and entitlement. The process will help consolidate the multiple schemes and bind them into a streamlined and centrally governed digital health platform. We hope that its implementation will help in transforming the healthcare system in the country.”

“Digitization of the Indian healthcare ecosystem augurs well for the country. Creation of a fully digital ecosystem will make it possible to access patient health history and medical records from anywhere in the country. This kind of a centralized digital framework has already been in play in many of the developed countries, and we have a great opportunity to study their models and work with the knowledge gained. A comprehensive and digitally integrated ecosystem will enable healthcare providers and medical professionals to learn about various best practices which can help in elevating the standard of care in the country,” said Nilesh Aggarwal, CEO and Founder of MedTalks.in.

He further added that integration of various government health schemes will empower stakeholders to understand the status of benefits available to or availed by any patient, which will further enable in expediting the delivery of care. The proposed digital health mission will have data portability and protection measures outlined in the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, which is also encouraging. The overall initiative seems to be a good step forward and the key to its effectiveness lies in its successful implementation.

Informing that NDHM can be a gamechanger, Vikas Bagaria, Founder, Pee Safe, said, “The idea is to create a unified database for the various health records and information about all individuals and integrate all the government health schemes. The model has already been successfully implemented by many countries, and now the National Health Authority (NHA) has identified the need to learn from those and create a robust digitized healthcare system in India. It will not only be helpful in better and more coordinated healthcare delivery to the needy, but also help in streamlining the healthcare services. In a country like ours with over 1.3 billion people, unifying health data for such a large population will enable in the creation of a stronger ecosystem benefitting healthcare startups through the regulatory framework. Certain legalities especially of the data security and portability subjects are also expected to be ironed out by provisions of the NDHM. It will help bring more transparency into the working of the various healthcare service providers and enable faster service delivery.”

Anupama Joshi, Partner, Deloitte India, said, “NDHM has the potential of changing the way healthcare is accessed in the country putting the consumer at the centre and in control. Traditionally healthcare has been lagging behind in its digital footprint as compared to other consumer sectors such as e-commerce and often this has been due to the resistance within the healthcare community. The COVID 19 has accelerated the journey towards digital healthcare bringing great opportunities to telemedicine, home healthcare, e- pharmacies, home collection etc. The government has facilitated this journey with its issue of telemedicine guidelines during the pandemic and its opportune partnerships with health start-ups, health IT firms and healthcare providers across the country for fighting against the pandemic.”

“While the government has announced an opt in policy for citizens as well as healthcare service providers, the success of India’s digital healthcare journey will be marked by the ability of the government to ensure the announcement and roll out of well understood data protection policies governing privacy of patient data. It will also have to ensure that data storage is cyber secure and an increasing number of non-government hospitals, diagnostics firms, pharmacies, home care and other non-traditional providers find a great value proposition in coming on Board India’s digital healthcare platform,” Joshi said.

Stating that the announcement of NDHM is a commendable step towards further fuelling digitization in Indian healthcare, Dr. Harshit Jain, Founder & CEO, Doceree, said.,”The digitized interoperable health ecosystem puts patients at the centre stage and provides power in their hands in the form of Unique ID for availing quality care and gaining better access to healthcare facilities and doctors. As we know, Electronic Health Records (EHR) can play a crucial role in transforming the way healthcare is delivered in the country. The government’s thrust on personal health records accessible through a unique ID validates the very fact. Use of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to analyse the data generated from the records will help learn disease patterns, predict onset of ailments and suggest seasonal outbreaks, bringing efficiencies and effectiveness in healthcare. In the later phases, the introduction of telemedicine and e-pharmacy will bring a lot more inclusivity. In the real sense, NDHM will take quality healthcare to rural masses and bridge the yawning divide which until now existed between urban and rural India. This digitization effort couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time than this when people are realizing the true potential of digital healthcare on the back of the scenario created due to COVID-19. “

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