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Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission —- India’s giant leap into Digital Health

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Whenever a person falls sick or is concerned about his or her health, he/she wants to get the best possible healthcare, but in a country as vast and as diverse as India two barrier comes in the way. One is the spatial separation from a good health facility or health care provider e.g., a person living in far off place in a village cannot access good quality healthcare at time, because there is no such facility near him even if he may be possessing the financial recourse to access best possible healthcare. The other barrier is the financial separation from good quality health care e.g., a poor person living in a metropolitan city may not possess the required financial recourse to pay for good quality healthcare even when he is living near the best hospital in the country.

To overcome these two barriers, our Govt under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi has launched the Ayushman Bharat Scheme. One component of the scheme the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) is taking care of the financial barrier in healthcare by providing free health insurance to all poor people of the country up to 5 lacs. The other component Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) is going to bridge the spatial gap through optimal use of information technology in the field of health care.

ABDM was announced by our Hon’ble PM from the Red Fort on 15 august 2020 and was run as pilot project in the UTs since then. On 27th September 2021 the mission was rolled out in all states of the country.

This is the best time to utilize digital technology in one of the most important pillars of nation building i.e., Healthcare and Wellness Promotion, because under the Digital India Initiative, an internet and Mobile Phone Connection has reached almost 90 % of the nook and corner of our country and is fast expanding, add to that the Jan Dhan bank account of each individual and unique identity of Aadhaar, called the JAM trinity provides the perfect culture medium for digital health to flourish.

When fully implemented the digitalization is going bring a sea of change and drastically improve healthcare in our country making us a global leader in healthcare. Information technology in which India is already undisputed Global leader, when brought into our already robust healthcare system is going to bridge all possible gaps thus going a long way in nourishing a healthy society which is essential for the progress of our country.

The benefits to health accessors or patients as well as to healthcare providers is innumerable.

Each person in the country is going to get a Unique ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Health Account) number, to which his all-longitudinal health data will be linked. This will obviate the need to carry hard copy of health records in file when visiting different doctors or health facilities, which often patients misplace. Whenever a patient visits to any hospital/health facility, be it Govt or private, he doesn’t need to carry his previous medical records in a file, as the doctor or hospital will be able access all of the previous medical records of the patient online from all the previous health facilities the patient already visited with the explicit consent of the patient.

This ready access to past medical records will drastically improve the diagnostics as well as economics of healthcare as the previous tests needs not to be repeated as happens in the physical world because of the patient often misplacing previous records.

All healthcare providers of all systems of medicines will be registered in a comprehensive nationwide Healthcare Provider Registry (HPR) after thorough verification of authenticity the credentials and qualification of each provider. This will automatically filter out the quacks/fake practitioners, about whom we often listen in the news. Those whose credentials are not found authentic will not be registered in the HPR thus automatically they will lose chance to practice and dupe common people. This comprehensive HPR will also enable patients to search for doctors and specialists of their choice in any place throughout the country, filtered based on options like qualification, expertise, patients’ rating, availability, accessibility, consultation charge etc.

Like wise all health facilities be it a big corporate hospital, govt hospital, diagnostic laboratory, radio diagnostic center, Indian System of Medicine Centre will be registered in a comprehensive nationwide Health Facility Registry (HFR). All Health facilities will be interconnected through Unified Health Interface (UHI). UHI like UPI in the financial world will enable all health facilities to communicate and exchange data seamlessly, whatever software or HMIS system the hospitals or health care provider is using. It will also enable seamless exchange of data between health information providers, patients PHR apps, health information users.

Like in the email world we can send mail from one service provider to another service provider, say from Gmail to Yahoo or Hot mail etc., or in the financial world one can exchange fund between different UPI apps like Pay TM to google pay or HDFC UPI, or Bharat Pay, or Phone pay etc. likewise UHI enables data exchange between different Health Management Information Systems like e-Hospital, e-Sushrut, Arkus or any teleconsultation apps like Practo, Lybrate, mFine or any make PHR app.

The healthcare providers especially private health facilities and doctors or online consultation apps like Practo, Lybrate etc. may think that by participating in the open interoperable platform they may lose their catchment of patients to other players but it will open up a sea of consumers or sea of health care seekers and quality healthcare providers will stand to only benefit from it. This will encourage competition between providers thus pushing them to uplift the standard of care which will immensely benefit the common citizens of our country.  

The digitalization will come with other numerous benefits like teleconsultation facility with any doctor all over the country, taking expert opinion of specialist /superspecialist by primary care physicians at far off health facilities like Primary Health centers, Community Health Centers. Patients can book and avail lab facilities at home, or after giving sample they don’t have to wait or revisit the lab for report as patients’ report will be linked with the ABHA No which he/she can access from PHR app or his doctor can view on his HMIs software and give treatment remotely.

Therefore, it’s an act of patriotism for all Citizens of our India, be healthcare providers or Health seekers to proactively participate in this mission of ABDM and make it a grand success.                 

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