Can Health ID card be that first step in an arduous journey to digitize health records?

The study of data is what Dr Swaminathan also points as a crucial outcome of system that rides on digital health records.

digital health, Health ID card, PM Modi, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission
Also, one could always look at the timing but the current relevance is only crucial with people increasingly mobile, health records that are portable provide much more than just an added convenience.

In an era of data science it is perhaps reasonable to expect health records to be digitised and easily portable. Indian healthcare took the proverbial first step to embrace information technology with the launch of the digital health mission by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, September 27th. Called the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, it has a key component of a health ID for every citizen that will also work as their health account, to which personal health records can be linked and viewed with the help of a mobile application; a Healthcare Professionals Registry (HPR) and Healthcare Facilities Registries (HFR) that will act as a repository of all healthcare providers across both modern and traditional systems of medicine.

But then, walk into any hospital and look at the prospect of a digital health record and it would seem a long way off with the journey still to start from scratch if the patient records are to be completely digitised and portable across hospitals and ideally made NLP (Natural Language Processing) compliant – very loosely the interface between computer and human language – and therefore amenable to use for data analysis for understanding larger issues and disease trends and patterns.

However, the move embarked upon by India seems a crucial first step. Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organisation and the former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) says: “I think this is a very good move to have a comprehensive health record for every individual, which stays in the cloud and the individual can access whenever needed and to be shared when required with the individual in complete control of his or her data and its privacy intact.” She feels having a system such as this which lays out the framework would be ideal as all could then focus on compliance.

What may therefore be worth tracking for most would be how hospitals take to digitising the health records and the extent to which they find it financially viable and an efficient solution other than the current practice of keeping patient records on paper as digitised records will track the complete process of treatment. Therefore, in case of an adverse event, there will be greater transparency about the treatment process for the patient and for protecting a doctor who has followed due process.

Dr Deepak Padmanabhan, consultant electrophysiologist in Bengaluru and associated with leading healthcare chains like Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiac Sciences and with Narayana Institute of Cardiac Services, says: “We are progressing towards a EMR (electronic medical records) based healthcare system; while designing this, we have to be aware of the fact that data is not only mutually interactive and compatible but is ideally also capable of allowing us to access the outcomes and efficiency of care provided for the amount of finances expended.”

The study of data is what Dr Swaminathan also points as a crucial outcome of system that rides on digital health records. “Having big data in such a form makes it possible to do big data analytics and leverage artificial intelligence and gain more insights into health conditions of people,” says Dr Swaminathan.

As is apparent, the first step in this is getting the big data in place. Also, one could always look at the timing but the current relevance is only crucial with people increasingly mobile, health records that are portable provide much more than just an added convenience.

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