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“We Are Committed To Support India’s Efforts To Augment Digital Health Initiatives”

Digital LifeCare was ideated in 2013 and founded in 2014 as it started working with state governments and other organisations in India to improve the way healthcare was delivered

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In an exclusive conversation with BW Businessworld Mallari Kulkarni, Head – Digital LifeCare, Dell Technologies speaks about Digital LifeCare and future innovations

What is the basic premise of Digital LifeCare?

Digital LifeCare is a flagship digital inclusion initiative of Dell Technologies developed to help India address the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) at population scale. It is a digital healthcare platform launched as part of Ayushman Bharat Initiative in 2018 to support the National Population Based NCD Screening, Prevention and Management programme. The platform assists the frontline healthcare workers and doctors across primary and secondary levels of care to screen, diagnose and manage NCDs, thus enabling continuum of care across different levels of care throughout the patient journey.   

It was started in 2013, how has it progressed since?

Digital LifeCare was ideated in 2013 and founded in 2014 as it started working with state governments and other organisations in India to improve the way healthcare was delivered, specifically to address challenges around care for NCDs at a national scale. In 2018, the platform was integrated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s (MoHFW) national non-communicable diseases programme and Dell Technologies was onboarded as the technology partner along with Tata Trusts as the key deployment partner. As the platform evolved, a suite of mobile apps for health workers have been developed with a focus on user-centric design, two-way intelligent sync mechanism to mitigate field connectivity challenges, along with support for 11 local languages, as examples. In 2022, a new mobile app and Digital LifeCare Dashboard were announced wherein, the mobile app is for primary health care center users (doctors and nurses) and the dashboard provides actionable insights to all administrators. i.e., national, state & district users, via web and mobile. 

Since inception, 135 million citizens across 33 states have been enrolled in the NCD system, and Tata Trusts has trained over 94,000 healthcare professionals. 

Are the auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) able to use and decipher the digital data they are responsible for? What is the margin of error in the process?

ANMs are provided with actionable insights through dashboard and workplan. The dashboard provides them status of the programme vis-à-vis the targets that they are expected to achieve in terms of enrollment, screening and follow-ups. The work plans act as job aids to improve their efficiency by listing all pending actions that need to be prioritised. For example, which individual needs to be screened fully and requires follow-up for medication or treatment adherence? As ANMs work closely with the communities, easy access to individual (line-listing) information also helps them in planning for delivery of the right service at the right time.  

Which diseases are the focus?

Digital LifeCare focuses on the MoHFW’s Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) programme that monitors five diseases i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, Oral, Breast and Cervical Cancers; which are responsible for nearly 60 per cent of all deaths in India. According to a report by Assocham and TARI, more than two-thirds of individuals suffering from NCDs are in their most productive age group – between 26 and 59 years. This trend is alarming and highlights that the burden of NCDs on India is long-lasting, given that 65 per cent of the country’s population is below 35 years of age. 

What makes NCDs more dangerous is the fact that most of them are silent – most people do not know that they have an NCD until it is at a fairly advanced stage. 

We understand open-source technologies have been used to build this. What are some of the advantages of open-source technologies?

In the context of healthcare, the adoption of open-source technology can help in developing a robust healthcare ecosystem in the country by providing the sector with flexibility and scalability, and at the same time, bringing down the cost of IT infrastructure for healthcare companies. More importantly, open-source technologies can provide access to business intelligence, as a result of which, actionable insights play a key role in facilitating consistent patient care. Some highlights of the NCD programme are:

• The addition of 11 languages by partners for app localisation that provides a remarkable ease of use 

• States, who were using custom NCD software, have been able to send aggregate data to the platform and the government gains a unified view of all states 

• The government’s Health ID module has built in the Digital LifeCare platform for integrating with ABDM. The module is being reused by other national health programmes and has helped to accelerate the ABDM adoption

Interoperability between healthcare systems provides a viable solution to this problem. It helps provide continuity of care through secure storage, thereby helping healthcare officials track the patient care journey at each level. Integrating interoperability not only helps to expand coverage and continuity of NCD services but also plays a key role in the growth of the country’s healthcare landscape.

Please tell us about your current partnerships. What will the next few months look like for penetration across India?

The Indian government, Dell Technologies and Tata Trusts partnership has enabled the enrollment of 135 million citizens. The central government’s keen focus on harnessing technology for healthcare has created a ripple effect across Indian states as healthcare is a state subject. 

For Dell, we view this partnership as our commitment to leverage our technology and scale up to drive enduring results in healthcare for 1 billion people globally, by 2030.The Digital LifeCare team at Dell, works with the healthcare practitioners, government and technology ecosystem across public and private sectors to deliver maximum effectiveness and the best outcomes for digital inclusion, at scale. The Digital LifeCare platform has been developed using collaborative design thinking in partnership with government, non-government organisations, research and academic partners including All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), ICMR, the World Health Organisation’s India office, as well as many other health research institutions across the country.

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Magazine 10 Sep 2022