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Data privacy was key for Aarogya Setu: DG, NIC

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The NIC addressed privacy issues while developing the contact tracing app Aarogya Setu

Recognising that the pandemic has digital health delivery ‘directly’ to the people, Dr Neeta Verma, Director General, National Informatics Centre has said that privacy issues were addressed during the development of Aarogya Setu. Speaking at the IHW Digital Health Summit and Awards 2021, organised by Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council, Dr Verma along with other public health experts and innovators underscored digital platforms as an integral part of the Indian healthcare ecosystem and emphasized on ensuring access for all.

“Before the pandemic, we were handling the system to implement various government programs. The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) program run by National Informatics Centre has got 20 crore mothers registered and 17 crore children immunized with the help of 16 lakh ASHA workers. However, we leveraged our e-hospital management system and that same software is running 628 hospitals across India. We took utmost care of privacy matters when we developed Aarogya Setu to conduct contact tracing. It was very important for us to go right so that everyone downloads the app. We ensured use of technology and its accessibility to create a user’s social graph to contain the spread of the disease,” says Dr Verma

Explaining another end of digital health delivery, i.e., through telemedicine, Raghavendra Prasad, Founder, StepOne, a volunteer-driven telemedicine collective, says, “We are live in 21 states now and have seen a hockey stick growth. We are currently handling about 20 per cent of the total caseload in India and 40 per cent of it during the peak of the second wave. We were handling 1 million calls for 6 lakh home isolation cases during the peak of the second wave. Though we believe that our venture is more about the innate kindness in people, having a robust IT infrastructure made delivery of that intent easier and enabled us to scale. Working side by side with the government helped us the most – it allowed us to enhance our capabilities incrementally on their request.”

Kamal Narayan, CEO, Integrated Health and Wellbeing (IHW) Council said, “Leveraging digital platforms to deliver health services is a step towards health for all. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, National Telemedicine Service ‘eSanjeevani’ is currently operational in 31 states and union territories and has served approximately 12.5 lakh patients in June 2021 alone, which is the highest since its launch in March 2020. Digital transformation of the Indian healthcare ecosystem can bring a significant shift and the poorest people in remotest villages of India can benefit from it.”

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