The launch of the national digital health mission has the potential to transform the country’s healthcare delivery system but the protection of privacy of personal data of citizens and improvement of healthcare infrastructure hold the key to its success. The ambitious initiative aims to give every citizen a unique health ID, create digitised health records and a registry of doctors and health facilities and provide affordable health coverage. Though the objectives of the mission are laudable, the important challenge in developing such a system is how to ensure data security. Another challenge is ramping up healthcare infrastructure, which is poor and uneven. At just 1% of the GDP, healthcare spending in India is one of the lowest in the world. The success of the digital health mission depends on the strength and reach of the healthcare infrastructure. As far as protection of personal health data is concerned, there are several technologies available to make it possible. The emerging trends in blockchain technology can be used to see that the data is encrypted. There are hard lessons to be learnt from Aadhaar, the largest project of its kind in the world. The health data is subject to stricter privacy control and hence can create problems for the government. The digitisation of the population’s health information into a single database is a fundamental step toward improving public health delivery. The initiative aims to provide efficiency, accessibility, inclusiveness and save time and money in meeting the healthcare needs of the people.
The digitalisation will contribute to the transformation of the healthcare delivery system and help achieve the goal of universal healthcare by 2030, provided the said twin challenges are addressed effectively. The Indian experiment can serve as a model to identify the issues involved in mass rollouts of digital initiatives. Public healthcare officials all over the world should be monitoring India closely. The proposed citizen health ID will contain information about medical data, prescriptions and diagnostic reports, and summaries of previous discharge from hospitals for ailments. There is a consensus among health experts and policymakers that digitisation of healthcare is the future that the country must embrace, with speed and almost utmost care. The consent for accessing and storing data must, however, stay with the individual and can be given to a trusted authority such as a physician, a test laboratory or a research institution as necessary. Across most developed economies, digitisation of healthcare has made it accessible, equitable and affordable. Even though telemedicine has been around for two decades, it has not been utilised to its full potential. The Covid-19 pandemic has infused a sense of urgency and necessitated its rapid adoption. – Telangana Today