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View | National Digital Health Mission: India's march towards Universal Healthcare coverage

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View | National Digital Health Mission: India's march towards Universal Healthcare coverage

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Socio-economic unification of the country is an important catalyst to achieve any nation’s holistic growth. Progressive Education and Healthcare ecosystems are the prime contributors of the socio-economic fabric of the country. The launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) not only brings robustness to the ecosystem but also an element of the unification.

View | National Digital Health Mission: India's march towards Universal Healthcare coverage
Socio-economic unification of the country is an important catalyst to achieve any nation’s holistic growth. Progressive Education and Healthcare ecosystems are the prime contributors of the socio-economic fabric of the country. The launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) not only brings robustness to the ecosystem, but an element of the unification as well.
The current pandemic stresses the need to bring a dimension of medical access to every resident of the country. PM Modi while launching the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) said, "It will bring all stakeholders - patients, doctors, insurance companies, and pharmacies together on a common platform." The mission emanates from a 2018 Niti Aayog proposal to create a centralized system with unique health IDs which will help store the health records of citizens in a digital format.
NDHM will help digitise health records of citizens, improve transparency and efficiency of healthcare services in the country by making the right consultancy available at the right time. With the help of digital records, a patient will be able to consult a specialist doctor registered on the platform, situated in any part of the country rather than the locally available doctor who may be a general physician.
India’s healthcare ecosystem has been facing numerous challenges such as service integration, quality, sustainable pharmaceutical pricing. NDHM will help strengthen the accessibility and equity of health services across the country.
Convenience of interoperability
NDHM has the potential to do in Healthcare what Unified Payments Interface (UPI) did in the Financial sector. UPI, a system built by the RBI which made it possible to transfer funds seamlessly from one bank account to the other, also pushed business growth by making available digital payment for merchants at a nominal cost, free for retail users. Similarly, NDHM will push growth by creating a level playing field for the stakeholders. E-Pharmacy and Telemedicine will be beneficiaries as more and more people get connected, store their data on this platform.
Citizen centricity with optimised data security
The mission with the assistance of a ‘citizen-centric’ approach comprises six pillars: Health ID, Digi Doctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, e-Pharmacy and Telemedicine. The Health ID will be a compilation of patients’ details that will allow a seamless flow of information pertaining to medical history, previous medicine prescription post the consent of the patient. The NDHM is designed keeping in mind privacy concerns, the IT infra will be built by private players which will enable real-time data sharing, accurate decision making on medical treatment with the history and previous prescriptions known to the doctors.
Advantage of a singular authority
In the first phase, the pilot will be rolled out in six Union Territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Ladakh and Puducherry. The fact that the governing body for both NDHM and AB-PMJAY is National Health Authority, this will help as it will streamline the roll-out and other processes. NDHM will help reduce healthcare access related disparities as even the poor will have equal access to healthcare.
Digital push to tele-healthcare economy
NDHM will give a boost to E-Pharmacy, tele-medicines and other consultancies as India now boasts of over 90 crore smartphones and free internet connectivity in select rural areas under Digital India programme. The important factor is that with this initiative, India will be stepping towards reducing problems in the healthcare services and treatment by focusing of being digitally centric. NDHM will help India grow digitally not only in E-Commerce, IT, BFSI but also in the healthcare sector.
Indu Bhushan, CEO, National Health Authority has said, "private stakeholders will have an equal opportunity to integrate with the building blocks of NDHM and create their own products for the market." The involvement of private players in a government scheme will help improve the competitiveness, benefit the end consumers with superior service.
While there is no doubt that NDHM will be a watershed moment for India’s Healthcare Industry, the proper focus should be given on funding, there should be no shortage of funding for Healthcare related scheme in India given the scope and number of people it reaches.
In 2019, the Health Tech sector recorded total funding of $586.93 million, an increase of 10 percent YoY. Till now the Finance Ministry has approved a budget of Rs 470 crore as an initial investment for the scheme, full cost and the nationwide rollout will be worked out later basis the outcome of the pilot rollout. This government is known for taking challenges head-on, we will be happy to participate in this historic decision by the NDA-II government. NDHM is idea whose time has come!!!
- By Satyendra Johari, Founder & Chairman, Johari Digital Healthcare Ltd.
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