The government will utilise digital health to expand access to healthcare and achieve universal health coverage (UHC), Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has pledged.
The National Digital Health Blueprint, which Vardhan announced in New Delhi yesterday, will serve to implement a National Digital Health Ecosystem with the goal of “[establishing] state-of-the-art digital health systems.” As part of the initiative to develop the Blueprint, the Centre is soliciting the input of healthcare professionals belonging to the government and private sectors alike.
A committee has also been established to develop a framework to implement the initiative which will be headed by J. Satyanarayana, the former Communications and Information Technology Secretary and incumbent chair of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency responsible for biometric ID system Aadhaar.
Health data will be an integral part of this ‘ecosystem’. Vardhan stated the ecosystem will be for the purposes of “managing the core digital health data…[creating] a system of personal health records, based on international standards and easily accessible to the citizens and healthcare providers.”
As part of the launch, Vardhan touted the use of digital health in the implementation of Ayushman Bharat and other healthcare-related initiatives such as the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and the Nikshay Poshan Yojana, which provides nutritional support to individuals with tuberculosis. The use of information technology platforms in administering these programmes “are…benefitting the patients at [the] right time with [the] right service delivery”, Vardhan stated. Capitalising upon these existing implementations of digital technology in healthcare initiatives “have a huge potential for supporting universal health coverage. India has everything that can help it achieve Health for all,” the Minister added.
The announcement comes as part of an ongoing digital technology push, emblematic of which is the Government’s Digital India campaign. Launched in 2015, the campaign seeks to expand access to digital technology and improve digital infrastructure to enable the delivery of government services using tech and empower citizens. Healthcare stands to gain from this, as the blueprint highlights. Already numerous innovations such as telemedicine and the application of artificial intelligence in areas such as diagnostics have sought to bridge accessibility gaps in Indian healthcare. With enhanced government support, such developments are poised to continue on an increased scale and move India closer towards the objective of Health for All.