Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission: India’s Drive Towards Centralized Healthcare
In a bit to bolster healthcare infrastructure in the country, the Indian government has decided to leverage digital technology to revamp the failing system. Two waves of the pandemic have exposed the inherent vulnerabilities of the system, forcing the government to rethink its priorities.
Despite being a country of 1.3 billion people, India spends a paltry 1.28 percent of its GDP on healthcare. This results in a lopsided system where expensive private medical facilities thrive and the public health system starts to die out. Consequently, the accessibility gap widens, and healthcare affordability drops.
By introducing the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, the Government of India wants to address this fault before it is too late. The initiative is a brainchild of the National Digital Health Mission, under the aegis of the National Health Authority. The aim is to build a digital healthcare ecosystem that can stand the test of time and performs diligently come what may.
The mission will build a digital network of inter-connected hospitals across the country and facilitate easier access to health solutions. Every citizen will have a unique Health ID, containing all the relevant information in one place. This makes it easier for hospitals to access records and proceed with the relevant treatment faster. It has the added benefit of doctors being able to access the medical history of their patients which will no doubt aid treatment.
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will also have provisions for registering every healthcare stakeholder under one platform. Pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and healthcare professionals will be registered under different categories on the same platform. This also enhances transparency and promotes cooperation. The ability to access the records on one platform will transform India’s health infrastructure and provide multiple options to patients too. For example, a patient will now be able to find a doctor he or she is comfortable with, maybe someone who hails from the same region or speaks the same language. Contacting specialists from any part of the country will be an easy task now.
That being said, such steps must be taken with utmost caution. The digital world is an unpredictable place. Illegal access of sensitive information is a very real threat. Unethical actors are always on the lookout for easy access to private information. The government needs to understand the risks associated and take the appropriate measures to ensure that private data is not compromised.
Understanding that some individuals may not be comfortable with having their private information and medical histories on one central platform, the government also announced that the program would be voluntary only. No one will be forced or pressured into registering on the platform. Dr. RS Sharma, Head of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, clarified further saying that citizens would be given the choice to build their digital Health IDs and link their medical records. “But I am quite sure that it will attract people as it will allow them to link health records, in a way help better diagnosis, affordable treatment,” he added.
India’s mission to digitalize its healthcare system and make it equally accessible to all strata of society is a commendable one. The pandemic served as a wake-up call and it is heartening to see the government responding in kind. Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is just what the doctor ordered and should improve the quality of diagnosis and treatment in India by leaps and bounds.