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Industry experts hail National Digital Health Mission

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The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) announced by PM Modi on Independence Day holds the promise of revitalising India’s healthcare delivery system. Express Healthcare presents reactions from industry experts

Charu Sehgal, Partner and Lifesciences and Healthcare Industry Leader, Deloitte India 

The launch of a NDHM can be a very significant development in moving India’s healthcare to the next level. Apart from the obvious advantage of convenience for the patient, given that s/he will not need to store and carry old records, it will be a boon for those who relocate for work. Given that remote doctor consultation will continue even after the pandemic ends, the digital access to patient data can be a game-changer leading to more effective diagnosis.

Most importantly, this will improve access by providing a big boost to consultation through telemedicine with specialist doctors for patients in smaller towns and remote locations. Providing a unique identification to doctors as well as health facilities can lead to streamlining several issues of quality and accountability. Data confidentiality will, of course, need to be ensured.

Dr Harshit Jain, Founder & CEO, Doceree

The announcement of NDHM by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a commendable step towards further fuelling digitisation in Indian healthcare. The digitised interoperable health ecosystem puts patients at the centre stage and provides power in their hands in the form of Unique ID for availing quality care and gaining better access to healthcare facilities and doctors.

As we know, Electronic Health Records (EHR) can play a crucial role in transforming the way healthcare is delivered in the country. The government’s thrust on personal health records accessible through a unique ID validates the very fact. Use of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to analyse the data generated from the records will help learn disease patterns, predict the onset of ailments and suggest seasonal outbreaks, bringing efficiencies and effectiveness in healthcare.

In the later phases, the introduction of telemedicine and e-pharmacy will bring a lot more inclusivity. In real sense, NDHM will take quality healthcare to rural masses and bridge the yawning divide which until now existed between urban and rural India. This digitisation effort couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time than this when people are realising the true potential of digital healthcare on the back of the scenario created due to COVID-19.

Satyendra Johari, Founder & Chairman, Johari Digital Healthcare 

PM Modi’s renewed focus on ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal for Local’ show the seriousness of the Indian government to become self-reliant. The government’s focus on creating a self-reliant economy will boost India’s contribution to the world economy. New outlines on ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat was the focus of PM’s speech on Independence Day.

 NDHM will digitise an individual’s medical records which can be seen as an enabler for an effective tele-consultancy and seamless cash transfer benefits under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. It will improve transparency and help the transformation of the Indian Healthcare sector.

PM Modi’s focus on Skill India is crucial as India as a country need to move beyond contract manufacturing, the ‘Make in India’ focus must go hand-in-hand with ‘Make for the world’, efforts should be intertwined with innovation for maximum output and reach of our products and services. Taking the help of technology to reach out to the masses and hitting the right chord with critical reforms and policies will take India to a new, modern and developed era.

Dr Hardik Ajmera, Deputy Medical Director, Saifee Hospital

“The announcement of the NDHM by the Government of India under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) is the much-awaited digital push the healthcare sector needed. This scheme as we know will incorporate all the patient history, medical records and pharmacy visits at multiple points of care on a single ID card providing easy access to electronic health records. This will help in providing prompt and accurate treatment, especially in emergencies by avoiding repetition of medical history taking and unwarranted tests. Carrying bags full of reports to different hospitals and loss of physical reports will no longer be an issue.

To achieve this paradigm shift in the storage and retrieval of medical records in the country, the digital integration of interfaces of various stakeholders in the healthcare sector will be of prime importance. Similarly, penetration of digital technology in rural areas will be the rate-limiting step. Overall, this move by the government of India may turn out to be a game-changer and lead the healthcare reforms in the country.

Gautam Chopra, CEO & Co-Founder, BeatO

The NDHM will be transformational. It will now ensure a continuum of care, keeping the patient at the centre. This is a big step in getting the ecosystem of providers, insurance and digital health players to work together and make Indian healthcare accessible, affordable, standardised and patient centric. The NDHM will change the way healthcare is consumed and provided in India. It is the right time especially for digital health companies to look at it as a service to our nation as well as a huge opportunity.”

What will change:

  • Move towards patient-centric care:For the first time, the focus will be patient-centric care. Through the Health ID card, information of patient history, diagnosis, medicines etc. things will streamlined and will be centralised. This will ensure a continuum of care, and will be the first step in making healthcare much more standardized, accessible and affordable for individuals. This will also ensure far higher transparency and accountability from healthcare professionals and providers, which will all result in better patient outcomes.
  • The role of providers and insurers: COVID-19 has taught us the value of coordinated care. The NDHM will make sure the fragmented ecosystem of providers and insurers can now come together and work more efficiently. This will allow for more standardisation across the ecosystem, predicting healthcare demand and supply much better. This is bound to lead to better economics for all stakeholders in the ecosystem.
  • Enhancing the role of digital health start-ups in the mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat: The NDHM brings a huge opportunity for digital health start-ups to work with providers and insurers to help build the continuum of patient centric care. Opportunities are immense – from managing patient health records, to remote monitoring to using AI and ensuring right interventions are made at the right time. This is the time for true innovation in healthcare sector and meeting the unique needs of India.

In the post COVID-19 world, health will be the biggest wealth. We saw that COVID-19’s impact was no less than an impact of a world war. Hence, healthcare infrastructure budgets will start eating into defence budgets of countries. Being such a core and integral aspect, it is but imperative that healthcare be a key cornerstone in the mission of Atmanirbhar Bharat. In this mission, digital health will be the only way to reach a large population at affordable costs. Hence, this is also a unique opportunity and privilege for health technology start-ups like BeatO who are building for India and making in India to play an important role in our country’s transformation movement.

Dr Swapneil Parikh, co-founder, DIY.health  
As a doctor and health tech entrepreneur, I feel energised by and optimistic about the NDHM. It is a sad reality for hundreds of millions of Indians that they can’t access quality health care services. The digital health mission can help improve access and reduce inefficiency, but it must be backed up by high-quality public health infrastructure. While there are data privacy and security issues that need to be addressed and public health infrastructure desperately needs to be strengthened, this is a good first step on a long journey to a healthier tomorrow for India. To be a great nation we need to be a healthier nation, and I look forward to the day when all Indians can access quality health care.

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