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India’s New ‘Health Aadhar’ that Digitally Connects Every Indian to their Medical Records

National Digital Health Mission

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a landmark announcement during his Independence Day address this year. This announcement can significantly enable ease of living for Indian citizens particularly from the health point of view.

The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) as announced by the Prime Minister will enable every Indian citizen to have a health card and completely digitize health record of all citizens. This will revolutionize health care and enable citizens to easily access all their health record in one place. This will also ensure that patients as well as doctors have all their medical information in one place, allowing doctors to take the best possible decision for their well-being and Health

Enabling Ease of Living and Access of Health Services For all Citizens

NDHM will prudently reduce the challenges in medical treatment across the country by leveraging ICT platforms and solutions to digital connect every citizen with affordable and accessible medical care.

Explaining the scheme, PM Modi said that under the NDHM, every Indian will be given a unique Health ID. The Health ID given will work like a Health Account of every Indian. The account will contain details of every test, every disease, the doctors you visited, the medicines prescribed and the diagnosis.

Experts have already opined that apart from convenience for the patient of not physically carrying all their health records and storing them safely, it will also being in significant cost savings for the patients.

Many patients, who move from a small town to a metro city seeking medical care, have to repeat most of the tests that were already performed, including the expensive tests. This may be because the previous test was not performed in a format that’s acceptable or there is a missing piece of information critical to diagnosing the case. By digitising health records, this duplicity of tests can be avoided, thus reducing the financial burden on patients.

Doctors now can, armed with full digital medical records and history, make better diagnoses with information like allergies, previous health issues and surgeries etc available at hand.

Tear Down Silos, Ensure Inter-operability

Digital health records of many patients enrolled in health insurance schemes run by state and Central governments and private insurance companies exist. Leading hospitals and diagnostic chains store them too. But the problem is that they all work in silos and there is no inter-operability. Now with the NDHM architecture, these silo-ed data can be made to interact with each other and a comprehensive health data-base can be formed.

As this article cites, if health insurance companies have access to such data, they can better underwrite policies and the pricing of premiums would be more dynamic.

Pilot Project Already Initiated

Speed and Scale are two traits of every policy initiated by the Narendra Modi government. Testament to this fact, a day after PM Modi’s announcement of this decision, the pilot project to implement this has already been rolled out in 6 union territories of the country.

The six union territories where the mission was rolled out through a pilot launch are Chandigarh, Ladakh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. The National Health Authority (NHA) has been given the mandate by the government to design, build, roll-out and implement the NDHM in the country.

National Digital Health Blueprint

The National Health Policy 2017 had defined the vision of ‘health and wellbeing for all at all ages’. Continuum of Care is a concept strongly advocated by the Policy. This vision of health includes quality of care, better access, universal health coverage inclusiveness and Citizen-centric health services. These traits can be fulfilled only if there is a holistic, comprehensive and interoperable digital architecture in place to ensure continuum of Care.

This is where the National Digital Health Blueprint under National Health Policy comes in. Under this Blueprint, a national Digital Health eco-system will be developed which will not only ensure digitisation of all health records and supply of digital health cards to all citizens but also implement Digital Health Data Hubs and institutional framework for its maintenance.

Pre-empting the Privacy Challenge

The need for maintaining the confidentiality, security and privacy of the health records cannot be over-emphasized. The Blueprint enables ensuring patient confidentiality as well as giving patients the ability to control access to their records through a combination of a few Building Blocks, namely, Consent Manager, Anonymizer and Privacy Operations Centre.