On the eve of India's flagship health program Ayushman Bharat completing three years since inception, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nationwide rollout of the National Digital Health Mission.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had first spoken about its intentions to digitalise health records in the National Digital Health Blueprint released in July 2019. The launch of the program further became imminent when PM Modi announced the national digital health mission from the Red Fort in his 2020 Independence Day speech.
Based on four pillars, the aim of the digital health mission is to maintain interoperability between all the various systems and software that will make it easier to access and store medical information. The four pillars are as follows:
- Unique Digital Health IDs
- Healthcare Facility Registry
- Health Professionals Registry
- Electronic Health Records
A successful pilot run in six union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, and Puducherry over the past year has led to the national roll out in the country.
Will My Data Be Secure?
To access the program, the government will issue unique health ids through the medium of an app designated for creating these ids. Since the release of the blueprint, there have been several questions raised on data security as the health id would not only contain demographic information but also include all the health details of the person.
The government plans to create data hubs which will consist of a few public databases but the personal health records can only be accessed by those who have the id. A patient's health records cannot be accessed without their informed consent. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and labs can only access a person's health records after the ID has been shared with them.
However, privacy concerns around data security continue to linger as there have been data breaches across the country.
How Can One Generate Their ID?
The unique digital health id can be created through the official website for the national digital health mission. Although created with consent, during COVID-19 vaccination, many people took to social media to complain about their ID being created without informing them.
BOOM had then reached out to the National Health Authority, the health body heading the digital mission. They are yet to respond to our queries.
The health ID which falls under the Ayushman Bharat project is voluntary and requires individuals, facilities, as well as professionals to participate only if they wish to. The creation of a health ID for those who used an Aadhaar card as identification proof while getting vaccinated breaches the rights of the people.
What Are The Benefits Of The National Digital Health Mission?
Prime Minister Modi while launching the mission on September 27 stated that this project further boosts the idea of a digital India. In a televised announcement, he added that the digital health mission will help the government to give accessible and affordable health services to those suffering adverse livelihood effects due to increasing out of pocket expenditure for availing the expensive health services.
Linking the e-Sanjeevani project that provides telemedicine consultations to people across the country, the Prime Minister remarked that this mission will now help people be more aware about the available services in their vicinity.
The Pradhan Mantri digital health mission seeks to bring all the already available health programs using technological portals under one platform. All the facilities of the National Health Mission, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, Nikshay Yojana for TB patients among others will be included in the electronic health records of the patient.
Furthermore, all lab test results, consulting experts for second opinions, medicines, preventive steps for ailments will be available through one ID. If a person chooses to visit a different doctor, instead of submitting all their earlier health record files or orally speaking about their medical history, health professionals will be able to access them on a click once the health ID is shared.
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