By Dr RS Sharma
Health is an essential part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the SDG 3.8 target aims to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” Universal Health Coverage is one of the targets that various countries set for themselves while adopting the SDGs in 2015. They further reaffirmed this commitment at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on UHC in 2019, organised by World Health Organisation.
As a cutting-edge initiative that will redefine India’s future of public health and development, the implementation of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) marks an important step in the global push for Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
While the efforts in deploying technology for healthcare have been continuous and widespread, the benefits have been localized and fragmented so far. The citizen cannot access his/her health records speedily nor store them conveniently. In the absence of an integrated system, the service providers tend to create isolated medical records enhancing the burden on the citizen significantly. Health service providers in the public and private sectors do not have an aggregated and complete view of the data for providing efficient health services to the citizens. Lack of reliable and complete data is a drawback for policy analysis and evidence‐based interventions also.
The need of the hour is to elevate the existing systems from providing disparate electronic services to integrated digital services. The popular argument about the current advancement of India’s digital health infrastructure is that- it has received its push for betterment from the pandemic; however, we cannot forget we prepared and published the ‘National Digital Health Blueprint’ in 2016; while the ‘Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission’ was launched in September 2020. However, thanks to the pull of data and learning that we have received from the pandemic; it has helped us strengthen the digital system of the country; which in-turn, will help us in making the digital health infrastructure of the country more robust, secure and inclusive.
The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (being implemented and monitored by the National Health Authority) project will now connect the digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other. Under this, the countrymen will now get a digital Health ID which will help them get all their health records all at one place. This will also empower the doctors to access the full medical history of their patients, all at one place – but, ofcourse, with consent. The health data of the beneficiaries stay secured; and no one can access them without the consent of the patient. The patient has full control over his data – he/she decides what he/she wants to share, with whom.
Health ID is just one part of the whole gamut of ABDM. ABDM envisages to bring the whole healthcare spectrum under one digital umbrella where all the doctors, nurses, paramedics of this country will be registered under the Healthcare Professionals Registry; while all the hospitals, clinics, labs, medicine shops etc will be registered under the Health Facility Registry. The ultimate mission of this humongous project is to bring every stakeholder related to the healthcare sector, on one single platform.
To back all this up, National Health Authority has also developed “ABDM Health Records App” to facilitate citizens to maintain their health record- all at one place; also, to grant or deny access to personal health data, requested by any doctor, lab or clinic.
The beauty of ABDM as a project is – it is also targeted towards the poor and marginalised sector of society. ABDM will make it easier for any patient to find a doctor from anywhere in the country who knows and understands his language and is experienced in the best treatment for his disease. This will increase the convenience of patients to contact specialist doctors present in any corner of the country.
During the inauguration of ABDM on September 2020, in his speech, Shri Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, shared, “डिजिटल इंडिया अभियान ने भारत के सामान्य मानवी को डिजिटल टेक्नोल़ॉजी से कनेक्ट करके, देश की ताकत अनेक गुना बढ़ा दी है और हम भली-भांति जानते हैं, हमारा देश गर्व के साथ कह सकता है, 130 करोड़ आधार नंबर, 118 करोड़ मोबाइल सब्सक्राइबर्स, लगभग 80 करोड़ इंटरनेट यूज़र, करीब 43 करोड़ जनधन बैंक खाते, इतना बड़ा कनेक्टेड इंफ्रास्ट्रक्चर दुनिया में कहीं नहीं है। ये डिजिटल इंफ्रास्ट्रक्चर, राशन से लेकर प्रशासन तक हर एक को तेज़ और पारदर्शी तरीके से सामान्य भारतीय तक पहुंचा रहा है।”This very well captures the essence of the project, also what it aspires to acheive.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is committed to bring about the positive changes in the country that it deserves; also, this was long due to the people of this country – we owe it to them. Projects like Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission aims at an unprecedented expansion of infrastructure. These four schemes will together accelerate the country’s progress towards achieving the goals of the National Health Policy laid down in 2017 and the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal – 3 by 2030.
(The writer is CEO, National Health Authority)