Modi launches digital Ayushman health IDs
The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), through which every citizen can voluntarily create a unique digital health ID containing all medical records, has begun rolling out nationwide, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday.
“Today we are launching a mission that has the potential of bringing a revolutionary change in India’s health facilities,” the Prime Minster said. “The way technology is being deployed in governance reforms today is unprecedented.”
The health ID will collect details such as demographics and location, family and relationship, and contact details. It will then be used to uniquely identify people, authenticating them and threading in their health records.
The ID will enable people to store and access medical records (prescriptions, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries), and share them with health care providers (with their consent) for treatment and follow-up.
“It will not be mandatory to create one,” an official said on condition of anonymity. “However, it would be desirable to have an ID for the health care delivery process to run seamlessly.”
The mission marks a new phase in efforts of the past seven years to strengthen health facilities, Modi said.
The Prime Minister said that the Arogya Setu app helped in preventing the spread of Covid-19 infections and the CoWIN platform to track vaccinations made it possible for India to vaccinate a record 868.7 million people under its free immunisation drive.
ABDM will connect digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other, Modi said. The mission will not only simplify processes at hospitals but also improve ease of living, he said.
The project has been piloted in the Union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Ladakh, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.
The mission consists of four building blocks — unique digital health ID, registry of health care professionals (doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, etc.), registry of health facilities (clinics, hospitals, diagnostic and imaging centres, pharmacies, etc.) and maintenance of electronic health records that can be accessed by patients and health care providers with consent.
Originally called the National Digital Heath Mission, ABDM is a part of a larger structure called the National Digital Health Blueprint, which aims to make better use of technology in health care delivery. The National Health Policy 2017 lay emphasis on leveraging digital technologies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of health care delivery services. The digital blueprint is a step towards that.
People creating a digital health ID will have access to more accurate information on health facilities and service providers. Further, they will have the option to access health services remotely through tele-consultation and e-pharmacy. ABDM is expected to increase accountability of health care providers, and ensure transparency in pricing and faster settling of insurance claims.
Modi also pointed to the larger number of doctors and paramedical staff being trained in India compared with 7-8 years ago.
“A comprehensive network of AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) and other modern health institutions is being established in the country and work on establishing one medical college in every three Lok Sabha constituencies is going on,” the Prime Minister said. “In villages, primary health centre networks and wellness centres are being strengthened. More than 80,000 such centres have already been operationalised.”
In the long run, the mission is expected to also benefit policymakers, programme managers and researchers.
Experts welcomed the move, but raised data safety concerns.
“The launch of the ABDM will help connect and streamline the various links in the health care ecosystem,” Charu Sehgal, partner at consultancy Deloitte India, said in a statement. “It is assumed, of course, that data privacy processes will be handled with utmost care.”
“The seamless interoperability resulting in accessibility of medical history and records regardless of geography will go a long way in changing the future of health care in the country,” said Abhishek Malhotra, managing partner at TMT Law Practice. “The only concern that would need to be addressed is privacy.”