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PM launches Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, under which a digital health ID will be provided to people that will contain their health records, and asserted that it has the potential to bring revolutionary changes in healthcare.

In his address after the launch, Modi said the mission marks a new phase in efforts of the last seven years to strengthen health facilities.

Today is a very important day for India marching in the 21st century. The campaign to strengthen the health facilities of the country for the last seven years is entering a new phase from today and this is not an ordinary phase, this is an unusual phase. Today a mission is being started, which can revolutionize the health facilities of India.

Three years ago, the Ayushman Bharat scheme, dedicated to Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay ji on his birth anniversary, was implemented across the country.  I am happy that from today onwards Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is also being implemented across the country. This mission will play an important role in overcoming the problems faced by the poor and middle class in the country.  Ayushman Bharat, which has connected patients with thousands of hospitals across the country through technology, is being expanded today with a strong technology platform.

The technology, which is being made the core for good governance and improving governance in India, is empowering the common man and it is unprecedented. Digital India campaign has empowered the country manifold by connecting the common man of India with digital technology and we know very well and our country can proudly claim there are 130 crore Aadhaar numbers, 118 crore mobile subscribers, about 80 crore internet users and about 43 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts. There is no such vast connected infrastructure anywhere in the world. This digital infrastructure is delivering to the common Indian from ration to administration in a rapid and transparent manner. Today India is making its mark in the world in digital transactions through UPI. The e-RUPI Voucher that has been launched recently is also a great initiative.

India’s digital solutions have also helped every Indian a lot in the fight against Corona. For example, the Arogya Setu App has helped a lot in preventing the spread of corona infection, creating awareness, understanding the whole situation and the surrounding areas. Similarly, under the Free Vaccine to All campaign, India has been able to administer about 90 crore vaccine doses so far. Co-WIN has played a great role in making the records and the certificate available to you. Even the developed countries do not have such a huge digital platform from registration to certification.

There has also been an unprecedented expansion of telemedicine during the Corona period. So far, about 1.25 crore remote consultations have been completed through e-Sanjeevani. This facility is connecting thousands of countrymen living in far-flung parts of the country every day with the senior doctors of big hospitals of cities while sitting at home. The services of well-known doctors have become easier. On this occasion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the doctors, nurses and medical staff of the country. Whether it is vaccination or treatment of corona patients, their efforts have provided great relief to the country in the fight against corona.

Ayushman Bharat- PM-JAY has eliminated the enormous tension of the life of the poor. Till now, more than two crore countrymen have availed the free treatment facilities under this scheme and half of the beneficiaries are our mothers, sisters and daughters. This in itself is very comforting and is a matter of satisfaction. We all know the condition of our families. In the absence of affordable treatment, the mothers and sisters of the country used to suffer the most. Our mothers and sisters often postpone their own treatment as they keep on worrying about the house, household expenses and other members of the family. Most times they would say that it would get cured itself or it is just a matter of a day or will take one dose of medicines from a local doctor and everything will be fine. The heart of a mother is such that she suffers herself, but does not let any financial burden on the family.

Earlier, lakhs of those who have availed treatment so far under Ayushman Bharat, or who are undergoing treatment, could not muster the courage to go to the hospital before this scheme and kept delaying.  They used to bear the pain, would somehow sustain themselves but could not go to the hospital due to lack of money. The very realization of this pain shakes us to the core. I have met such families in this corona period and before that also when people used to avail services of Ayushman. Some elders used to say that they did not want treatment because they did not want their children to be in debt. They would bear the pain themselves and were prepared to leave the world, but did not want to leave behind their children in debt. Therefore, they would not get themselves treated. Most of us present here would have seen many such people in our families and neighbourhood. Most of us have gone through similar anxieties ourselves.

It was always my endeavour to meet the beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat whenever I used to go to the states before Corona happened. I used to meet them, talk to them, understand their pain and experiences and would get their suggestions on hand. Though it was not discussed much in the media and in public, but I had made it a routine. I have personally met hundreds of beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat and how can I forget that old mother, who was able to undergo kidney stone operation after suffering for years or the young man who was suffering from kidney ailment. I can’t forget the faces of people who were suffering from some ailments in the legs or someone battling pain in the spinal cord. Today Ayushman Bharat has been a huge support for all such people. The documentary which was shown here a while back and the coffee table book which was launched have detailed accounts of those mothers and sisters. Thousands of crores of rupees that the government has borne in the last three years have saved lakhs of families from being trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. No one wants to remain poor; everyone tries hard to get out of poverty by working hard and searching for opportunities. Sometimes it seems that he will come out of poverty soon and suddenly somebody in the family is inflicted with a disease then all the hard work goes in vain. Then he slips back by five-ten years and gets trapped in the cycle of poverty. Illness does not allow the entire family to come out of the vicious circle of poverty and, therefore, whatever healthcare solutions the government is introducing, including Ayushman Bharat, are a huge investment for the present and future of the country.

Ayushman Bharat – Digital Mission will facilitate the ease of living along with simplifying the procedures in hospitals. At present, the use of technology in hospitals is currently limited to only one hospital or to a single chain of hospitals. When a patient moves to a new hospital or a new city, he has to go through the same process again. In the absence of digital health records, he has to carry files of the past several years. In the event of an emergency, even this is not possible. As a result, a lot of time of both the patient and the doctor is wasted, the problem becomes acute and the cost of treatment also goes up. We often see that many people do not have their medical records when they visit the hospital. In such a scenario, the medical consultation, investigation, etc has to be done afresh. In the absence of a record of medical history, it is time consuming and costly and sometimes the treatment becomes contradictory and our brothers and sisters living in the countryside suffer a lot because of this. Since doctors do not advertise in newspapers, it is only through word of mouth that one gets to know about a good doctor.  Now all the information of the doctors regarding their specialty, the nearby doctors, where to reach immediately will be available and I would like to tell you that the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will play an important role in getting rid of such problems.

Ayushman Bharat – Digital Mission will now connect the digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other. Under this, the countrymen will now get a digital health ID. The health record of every citizen will be digitally protected. Through the Digital Health ID, the patient himself and the doctor can also check the old records if needed. Moreover, there will also be registration of doctors, nurses and paramedics. All the hospitals, clinics, labs, chemist shops in the country will also be registered. In short, this digital mission will bring every stakeholder related to health together on a single platform.

The poor and middle class of the country will be the biggest beneficiaries of this mission. One of the advantages would be that it would be easy for the patient to find a doctor anywhere in the country who knows and understands his language and is a specialist of the disease he is suffering from. This will facilitate the patients to contact specialist doctors in any part of the country. Besides doctors, it will be easier to find labs and drug stores for better tests.

The entire ecosystem related to treatment and healthcare policy making will become more effective with this modern platform. Doctors and hospitals will be able to use this platform to provide their services to the remote parts of the country. With effective and reliable data, this will improve treatment and will also save money for patients.

The campaign to make health services easy and accessible in the country, which has been launched across the country today, is a part of a continuous process going on for 6-7 years. Over the years, India has changed the decades-old thinking and approach related to health. Now work is in progress for a health model which is holistic and inclusive. A model with an emphasis on disease prevention, i.e. preventive healthcare, makes treatment affordable and accessible to all. With emphasis on our traditional system of AYUSH like Yoga and Ayurveda, all such programs were started to protect the poor and middle class from the vicious cycle of disease. A new health policy was formulated for the development of health infrastructure and better treatment facilities in the country. Today a network of very large and modern health institutions like AIIMS is also being developed in the country. Construction of one medical college for every three Lok Sabha constituencies is also in progress.

It is imperative that the medical facilities available in the villages should be improved to boost the health facilities in India. Now the primary healthcare network in the country is being strengthened with health and wellness centers in the villages and near the home. So far, about 80,000 such centers have been made operational. These centers are equipped with facilities ranging from routine checkups and vaccinations to early detection of serious diseases and a wide range of tests. Efforts are underway to increase awareness through these centers so that serious diseases can be detected in time.

The construction of medical infrastructure is being prioritized in this period of Corona global pandemic. Infrastructure of critical care blocks is being developed in district hospitals of the country, special facilities are being created in district and block hospitals for the treatment of children. Oxygen plants are also being set up in district level hospitals.

Unprecedented reforms are also taking place in medical education to transform India’s health sector. For the last seven-eight years, more doctors and paramedical manpower have been prepared in the country than before. Work on mission mode is also going on regarding modern technology related to health, research related to biotechnology, self-reliance in medicines and equipment. The way India has shown its capability in the development and manufacturing of Corona vaccines, it fills us with pride. PLI schemes for raw material of health equipment and medicines are also giving a lot of momentum to the AatmaNirbhar Bharat campaign in this sphere.

Along with a better medical system, it is also necessary that the poor and middle class spend bare minimum on medicines. Therefore, the central government has kept many services and goods like essential medicines, surgery items, dialysis, etc cheap. The use of the world’s best generic drugs made in India for maximum use in treatment is being encouraged. More than 8,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras have given great relief to the poor and middle class. I had the privilege to talk to many patients who take medicines from Jan Aushadhi Kendras and I found that people in some families have to take some medicines daily due to age related or other diseases. Due to the Janaushadhi Kendra, such middle class families are saving around 1,000-2,000 rupees every month.

It is also a coincidence that today’s program is being organized on World Tourism Day. Some may wonder what health care program has to do with tourism. But health has a very strong relationship with tourism. When our health infrastructure is integrated and strengthened, it also has its effects on the tourism sector. Would a tourist want to visit a place where there is no better treatment facility in case of an emergency? And now it has become even more important after Corona. Tourists will feel safe to visit a place where there is maximum vaccination. You would have seen that the tourist destination states like Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Goa, Andaman and Nicobar have put maximum emphasis on vaccination so that there is confidence among the tourists. It is certain that all the factors will get stronger in the years to come. Wherever the health infra will be better, the tourism prospects will be better. That is, the hospital and hospitality will run in tandem with each other.

Today the world’s trust in India’s doctors and health system is increasing continuously. The doctors of our country have earned a lot of respect in the world and have established the name of India. If you ask the rich people of the world they will admit that one of their doctors is Indian. If India’s infrastructure is in place, then the number of people coming to India from the world for treatment is bound to increase. Even in the midst of many limitations of infrastructure, people come to India for treatment and sometimes we get to hear very emotional stories. When small children from our neighboring countries come here for treatment and after they are cured, the happiness of their families says it all.

Our vaccination programme, CoWIN platform and pharmaceutical sector have further enhanced India’s image. When new systems of technology will be developed by Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, then it will be very easy for the patients of any country to consult, send their reports to doctors of India and get treatment. Of course, this will also have an impact on health tourism.

The road to a healthy India in this era of independence is very important to fulfill the big resolutions and to make big dreams come true. For this we have to make concerted efforts. I am sure all the people related to the medical field, our doctors, paramedics and medical institutions will assimilate this new system rapidly. Once again, I wish the nation all the very best for Ayushman Bharat – Digital Mission!!

MB Bureau

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