The Muddled Health Data System In India

MUMBAI : Large volumes of personal health data are collected on a daily basis in places like public health centres and hospitals. These rich sources of data can be used to improve healthcare services, but the questions of where, how, and who uses it remain.

Given its importance and the possibility of it being used for surveillance or corporate interests, it is critical to establish a robust and sensitive data governance structure, suggests a study.

In the study published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Sundeep Sahay and Arunima Mukherjee examine the issues in the public health data system under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) introduced in 2006. An important purpose of the NRHM was to strengthen the national Health Management Information System (HMIS) to enable better use of data. This triggered a series of steps to streamline and decentralize data systems. However, these efforts were short-lived because of the lack of interoperability between the portals of Centre and state, and the Centre’s scepticism about state-level data.

In response, several other national data systems, such as the mother-child tracking system, were introduced in parallel to HMIS. This undermined the existing HMIS and increased the workload of field health staff. States themselves maintain local level data sets, resulting in multiple systems.

At present, the primary purpose of data collection is to fulfill the bureaucratic function of generating monthly reports rather than improving healthcare, say the authors. . Besides, they raise concerns about the lack of data policy on storage, rights of access, and privacy of individuals. They argue it is more important to strengthen the public health data system as the government embarks on ambitious health service plans, like Ayushman Bharat. While dealing with this explosion of health data, citizen’s rights, privacy and well-being need to be the focal point, they add.-Live Mint

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