q-as-the-covid-19-pandemic-has-shown-a-well-functioning-personal-health-data-infrastructure-can-play-a-key-role-in-public-health-management-in-this-context-critically-examine-the-national-digital-heal

Q) As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, a well-functioning personal health data infrastructure can play a key role in public health management. In this context, critically examine the National Digital Health Mission. 

Why this question:

Important part of GS paper- II. 

Key demand of the question:

Provisions of the National Digital Health Mission, impact it will have on the healthcare sector and the concerns related to it.

Directive:

Critically examine- Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding the topic. Try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues identified are most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.

Introduction:

Give a brief overview of the National Digital Health Mission and its objective.

Body:

In the first part, mention the provisions of the mission and impact it will have.

In the next part, highlight the concerns associated with the mission.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a way forward. 

Model Answer

On the occasion of the 74th Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). It is a complete digital health ecosystem. It is implemented by the National Health Authority under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Mission is expected to bring efficiency and transparency in healthcare services in the country.

Key Features of the Mission 

  1. Under the mission, every Indian citizen will now have a unique health ID and digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
  2. The digital platform will be launched with four key features — health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry. 
  3. It will later be extended to include e pharmacy and telemedicine services.
  4. The core building blocks of the mission viz. the health ID, Digi Doctor and Health Facility Registry are to be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of India.
  5. The private sector will also be given an opportunity to integrate in the mission and create their own products. However, the core activities and verification will be done by the government. 
  6.  The health ID card which will be issued to every Indian will contain all the records related to the health of the individual, including Prescriptions, treatment, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries.
  7. The citizens will be able to give their doctors and health providers one-time access to this data during visits to the hospital for consultation.
  8. The Health ID will be voluntary and applicable across states, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and pharmacies.
  9. There will be a National Health ID that will store the medical data of every citizen. 
  10. Every Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager that will be used to seek the patient’s consent to allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.

How will the Mission affect the Health Sector in India 

  1. It will liberate the citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, seeking appointment, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets, etc. 
  2. It will empower people to make an informed decision to avail the best possible healthcare.
  3. It will be a step towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage in India. 
  4. It will help improve the reach and efficiency of National Health Programmes like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, immunization, etc.
  5. This will greatly facilitate tele-medicine, e-pharmacy, and collection, consolidation and interoperability of health data.

However, for the Mission to achieve its desired objectives certain challenges  need to be mitigated:

  1. The Challenges related to data security and privacy are immense especially when India does not have a specific legislation catering to the issue of data protection. 
  2. A similar law in the UK called the National Health Service failed and hence India needs to be careful and learn from the mistakes. 
  3. Minimizing the urban-rural as well as rich- poor digital divide so that the mission does not just be for the urban rich who are well equipped with technology. 
  4. Minimizing the existing infrastructural gaps in the healthcare sector like availability of doctors and other medical personnel. 

The National Digital Health Mission is a holistic, voluntary healthcare programme that will effectively reduce the existing gap between various stakeholders in the healthcare sector such as doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, and citizens by bringing them together and connecting them in an integrated digital health infrastructure.