India

First phase of National Digital Health Mission likely to cover some UTs

The ambitious National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), under which every Indian will get a health ID that will ease access to medical services has been rolled out on a pilot mode in six union territories.
|| Manikya Dheeren

On 7th August 2020, National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) released its latest strategic document, outlining the envisioned digital registries of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies, digital personal health records, and digital clinical decision systems.

In the context of this, the central government’s think-tank NITI Aayog, in June 2018, floated a consultation of a digital backbone for India’s health system — National Health Stack (NHS). NHS was intended to be a digital infrastructure built with the aim of making the health insurance system more transparent and robust, while factoring in the uniqueness of India’s health sector, and the political realities of federalism.

A committee headed by former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman released the National Digital Health Blueprint in July 2019. NDHB recognised the need to establish a specialised organisation, called the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), to facilitate the evolution of the National Digital Health Ecosystem.

The National Health Authority (NHA), the apex agency responsible for the implementation of Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), has been given the mandate by the government to design, build, roll-out and implement the NDHM in the country.

“From today, a major campaign is being launched in which technology will play a big role. The National Digital Health Mission is being launched today. This will bring a new revolution in India’s health sector and it will help reduce problems in getting treatment with the help of technology,” he said.

The six union territories where the mission was rolled out through a pilot launch are Chandigarh, Ladakh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep, the NHA said in a statement.

In his Independence Day address, the Prime Minister said that under NDHM every Indian citizen will get a health ID which will store an individual’s medical records and the Mission will herald a new revolution in the health sector.

“The NDHM aims to liberate citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, seeking appointment with them, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets and will empower all Indians with the correct information and sources enabling them to take an informed decision to avail the best possible healthcare,” the NHA statement said.

The NDHM comprises six key building blocks or digital systems – HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy andTelemedicine – that will enable access to timely, safe and affordable healthcare through a ‘citizen-centric’ approach, it said.

Providing details on the key components of NDHM, NHA CEO Dr Indu Bhushan said, “The core building blocks of NDHM such as Health ID, Digi-Doctor and Health Facility Registry shall be owned, operated and maintained by the government of India. Private stakeholders will have an equal opportunity to integrate with these building blocks and create their own products for the market. However, core activities and verifications, for example, generation of Health ID or approval of a doctor/facility shall remain with the government.”

Key Points

  • The NDHM is a complete digital health ecosystem. The digital platform will be launched with four key features — health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry.
  • At a later stage, it will also include e-pharmacy and telemedicine services, regulatory guidelines for which are being framed.
  • The NDHM is implemented by the National Health Authority (NHA) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • The National Health Authority (NHA), is also the implementing agency for Ayushman Bharat.
  • The platform will be available in the form of an app and website.
  • The Digi Doctor option will allow doctors from across the country to enroll and their details, including their contact numbers if they want to provide them, will be available.
    • These doctors will also be assigned digital signatures for free which can be used for writing prescriptions.
    • It will be voluntary for the hospitals and doctors to provide details for the app. 

Health ID

      • The national health ID will be a repository of all health-related information of every Indian.
      • Various healthcare providers — such as hospitals, laboratories, insurance companies, online pharmacies, telemedicine firms — will be expected to participate in the health ID system.
      • Every patient who wishes to have their health records available digitally must create a unique Health ID, using their basic details and mobile or Aadhaar number.
      • Each Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager, which will be used to seek the patient’s consent and allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.

The Health ID will be voluntary and applicable across states, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and pharmacies.

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