The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has released a National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB) to “manage and analyse” the big data generated by the Centre’s flagship health programme, Ayushman Bharat. Released by the MoHFW Minister, Harsh Vardhan, on Monday, the document recommends the “setting up of a National Digital Health Mission” to create an “ecosystem” that would bring together the health records of people who have benefited from Ayushman Bharat. Given that doctors in both the public and private sectors regularly complain about the lack of comprehensive records of their patients, the digital registry envisaged by the NDHB could fulfill a longstanding requirement of the health sector. The proposed data compendium is also in keeping with global trends in healthcare where digital technology is used to make treatment options more personalised and precise. Big data can also be used to prevent epidemics and improve the efficiency of drugs.
Last year, the MoHFW framed a draft Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA). The proposed legislation recognised that existing laws were inadequate to protect the privacy of patients in the digital domain. In contrast with the blueprint released on Monday, DISHA placed the onus of data protection on the service provider. The draft was criticised by industry bodies, which feared the stifling of medical research. DISHA never made it to Parliament. In view of its recent emphasis on digital medical data, the MoHFW would do well to revisit this draft legislation — and seek a balance between the concerns of industry and the rights of patients. – Indian Express