Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on August 15 while addressing the nation on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day, launched the tech-based National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) to revolutionise the Indian health sector. The initiative will further boost the reach of Indian healthtech startups that have been working towards revamping healthcare with tech integration.
The initiative comes under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) and is expected to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health services in the country. PM Modi explained that each patient would be given an ID card under this scheme. These cards will include confidential medical data such as prescriptions, diagnostic reports, discharge summaries and more.
The patients will have to give their doctors or health providers one-time access to this data during hospital visits or consultations. The government has also clarified that access to medical data will have to be given separately for each visit and that doctors could only access it for a limited time. This will address any arising concerns of data confidentiality as well.
Commenting on the same, PM Modi said, “Every Indian will get a health ID card. Every time you visit a doctor or a pharmacy, everything will be logged in this card. From the doctor’s appointment to the medication, everything will be available in your health profile.”
Telemedicine, Teleconsultations To Be Under This Mission
The National Digital Health Mission will also allow the patients to access health services remotely through teleconsultations and epharmacies while offering other health-related benefits. The development comes after a few months after the ministry of health, and family welfare (MoHFW) rolled out a set of guidelines for telemedicine or remote delivery of medical services. However, the epharmacies guidelines are still on the back burner.
With the telemedicine guidelines in place, doctors will be able to write prescriptions based on telephonic, textual, or video conversations — chat, images, messaging, emails, fax, and others. The step will allow users to consult certified medical practitioners without going out of the house.
Modi also believes that the ongoing global pandemic has helped in the spread of telemedicine and teleconsultation. In a LinkedIn post published in April, Modi highlighted that telemedicine and teleconsultation are at the same path of success as digital payments with growing numbers and integration, however, there is still scope of innovation here.
National Digital Health Mission To Boost Indian Healthtech Startups
According to Inc42’s The State of Startup Ecosystem Report 2018, there are a total of 4,892 startups in the Indian healthtech space, which have raised a total of $504 Mn between 2014-2018. In 2019, the healthtech sector recorded total funding of $586.93 Mn, an increase of over 10% in the amount of funding from the previous year.
The government efforts to digitise the Indian healthcare segment will boost the confidence of the entrepreneurs working in this sector. The healthtech segment, along with edtech, has anyway emerged as the choice of investors during the pandemic.
Several startups like 1mg, Medlife, Remedo, Suki, Akna Medical, and others have raised funding during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Medlife and PharmEasy are reportedly eyeing a merger, and Reliance Jio may be looking to acquire Netmeds to expand its healthcare offerings.
Even the Indian government has onboarded healthtech startups to bring about innovative solutions under the Ayushman Bharat Start-up Grand Challenge. The healthcare industry in India is vast, comprising hospitals, medical devices, clinical trials, medical tourism, health insurance, and medical equipment, besides telemedicine or online pharmacies.
Advancements in technology will also bring about a paradigm shift in healthcare across its spectrum including disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Technological tools such as artificial intelligence and big data can help provide more personalised treatment options to patients with better outcomes.
Digital Health On Platter Since Last Year
The Indian government has been in discussions to set up the National Digital Health Mission since last year. According to media reports, even a report filed by a committee set up by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had emphasised on the need to introduce such a specialised body, which was based on similar models as seen in the likes of UIDAI and GSTN.
Some of the proposed provisions under the NDHM were –
- Citizens should be able to access their electronic health records conveniently, preferably within five clicks;
- Citizens should get integrated health services at a single point, though multiple agencies, departments or services providers are involved;
- NDHM shall assure a continuum of care to citizens, across primary, secondary and tertiary care and public and private service providers;
- A framework for unified communication centre will be prepared to facilitate voice-based services and outreach;
- NDHM shall support national portability for healthcare services
The report also recommends that the National Digital Health Mission will be an open API-based ecosystem where security and privacy will be built into the design and development of the APIs, which will be audited for security and privacy before deployment.