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We Aim To Enhance Efficiency Of The Healthcare System In India: Dr. Praveen Gedam, Addl CEO, NHA

In conversation with BusinessWorld, Dr. Praveen Gedam, Additional CEO, National Health Authority (NHA) talks about National Digital Health Mission, NHA’s progressive mission that is all set to revolutionise India’s Healthcare system.

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How is NDHM set to transform the healthcare system in India?

The National Digital Health Mission is based on the National Digital Health Blueprint released in 2019 and is a one-of-a-kind technology-driven digital healthcare ecosystem. The mission aims to improve efficiency of the healthcare sector across India. This is the first step towards structuring healthcare delivery in a country like India. But most importantly, it is a radical step to better healthcare delivery management during pandemics/epidemics.

Based on the principles of ‘health for all’ the National Digital Health Mission aims to build the digital backbone necessary to create an integrated digital health infrastructure. The entire mission will be on a voluntary basis and is centered around the key tenets of privacy, security, and consent.

The mission has three core registries – Health ID for individuals, Digi-Doctor for doctors and Health Facility Registry for health facilities. Once these registries are populated, it shall be possible for individuals, doctors and health facilities to use the technology backbone for various activities like telemedicine.

I want to again highlight that being a part of this mission is voluntary for citizens, doctors, and healthcare providers. Also, a citizen can opt-out or cancel their HealthID at any time.  

An important thing to note is that the individual has control of his/her data. He can give access to his records for a stipulated period of time to the doctor via a technology that we call the “consent manager”. 

How will NDHM be beneficial to the citizens of India?

Through this mission, we aim to enhance the efficiency of the healthcare system in India. This digital ecosystem will be a one-stop solution for each citizen’s healthcare needs. Now, one will not need to carry multiple records, be afraid of losing important health papers, that could lead to confusion in diagnosis, or stand in long queues, etc. Besides, if a new doctor due to unforeseen circumstances is treating an individual since all the medical records are in one place, there will be continuity of treatment without any hassle. Also, in cases of emergency, the patient can be attended to immediately and effectively. 

Furthermore, Unnecessary expenditure like repeat tests will be avoided.

Patients will be able to search for doctors and facilities online, and doctors and facilities will be able to make themselves available for ‘search’ and ‘service’ through this platform. 

The rural areas of India have constantly struggled with access to quality healthcare. How will this new mission help resolve this?

We understand that digital literacy and accessibility is a concern in rural areas. This is precisely why Government has decided to roll out the pilot mission in the six Union Territories—Puducherry, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Ladakh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep

Above locations were chosen keeping in mind the demography, culture, population, literacy levels, etc. The aim is to understand how different regions work and to find viable and valuable solutions accordingly and provide quality healthcare. Take Ladakh for example, in this region low digital literacy and connectivity are serious problems that we are bound to encounter. 

We are cognizant of these issues and are also working on developing an offline module of the mission. 

Could you please elucidate on how the “Health ID” will be different from Aadhar? Will this unique ID be linked or in anyway associated with Aadhar?

Yes, as I have mentioned above, each citizen can get a unique health ID. However, this health ID is different from the Aadhaar ID and one should not be confused for the other.  The Aadhaar has its own unique purpose and the legal provisions  do not allow the Aadhaar ID to be used like a Health ID.

Yes, the HealthID will be different from the Aadhaar because of the above-mentioned reason. However, in this pilot phase, the HealthID number can be linked to the Aadhaar number or the individual’s mobile number, whichever he/she prefers. Right now, these are the 2 options. 

What timeframe are you looking at to implement this mission nationwide? Additionally, what is the procedure to follow to enroll for the mission?

Pilot to be rolled out by NDHM in the 6 UTs and later depending on the results it will be taken up nationwide. 

The mission is on track and have already completed the three basic platforms—creation of health ID; creation of a doctor's registry and the health facility registry. 

Each citizen can join the mission by a very simple process: An individual can create/generate a digital HealthID (randomly generated 14-digit number) via a  website (https://healthid.ndhm.gov.in/). Using either  Aadhaar ID or mobile number one can generate the HealthID. This Health ID can also be generated at an enrolled health facility. 

NDHM is very futuristic in its approach… if it was already deployed, how would it have helped us fight COVID 19 and contain its spread significantly? 

Technology has connected the globe in ways that we never thought was possible. Had we launched NDHM earlier, the gamut of things that we could have done to contain the spread would’ve been phenomenal. A healthcare database would’ve helped us understand the source of the spread and work towards containing it in a quick and systematic manner. We could’ve educated the population on quarantine, pre-screening and diagnosing, cleaning, and disinfecting, and reducing in-home infections. 

Furthermore, we could’ve used the demographic data to ascertain the scenario and glean insights on how to combat the pandemic in the most effective manner. 

Take our very own Aarogya Setu app, in a very short time; it has been extremely effective in enabling citizens with prevention and care. It alerts the user on high-risk areas; assists with adequate precautionary measures to avoid infection; aids with initial self-diagnosis.

Also, worldwide several countries have initiated electronic records that enable the clinical decision-makers to make informed decisions, thereby improving the quality of care and time taken to provide that care. 

Such a platform could have been of immense help during a public health crisis like the pandemic we are in the center of right now.