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India to Officially Roll Out National Digital Health Mission

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will roll out the National Digital Health Mission on 27 September. It seeks to bridge the existing gap among different stakeholders in India’s healthcare ecosystem through digital highways.

Under the Mission, citizens will be provided with a unique digital health ID, which will contain all the health records of the person. The National Health Authority (NHA) is the government body tasked to implement the programme based on the guiding principles laid out in the National Digital Health Blueprint.

The Mission was first piloted last year in August across six union territories. As per a news report, the six union territories were Puducherry, Chandigarh, Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman, Diu, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli.

The Prime Minister, during his Independence Day speech last year, had announced that “a new campaign” would begin called the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). The objectives of the Mission are the secure processing of individual data and easy accessibility of digitalised personal and medical records by individuals and health service providers. The recent initiative will give Indian citizens a Health ID card. Every doctor or a pharmacy visit will be logged on the card; from the doctor’s appointment to the medication, everything will be available in the health profile, the Prime Minister stated.

According to the Indian Health Minister, the mission is on track and the three basic platforms, health ID, doctor’s registry called Digi-doctor and the health facility registry have been made operational. The health ID card includes details like Aadhar and mobile numbers.

The Health Minister also released Post-COVID Sequelae Modules, aimed at the capacity-building of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and community healthcare workers across India, to deal with the long-term effects of COVID-19. The modules have been prepared to provide guidance to doctors and healthcare workers to deal with the issue of the long-term effects of COVID-19, the minister noted. He added that the proactive and comprehensive treatment of COVID-19 is required to ensure minimum side effects.

The government has been developing and deploying emerging technologies in the healthcare industry. In May, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) developed ‘BlockTrack’, a blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for a mobile phone-based application. The application, which is the first of its kind, is currently being field-tested at the institute’s hospital.

BlockTrack aims to securely digitise healthcare information systems while ensuring the protection of sensitive personal information and medical records. It does this by decentralising the control and ownership of patient data, through a blockchain-based innovation. The BlockTrack innovation is now protected through a provisional IP filed with the Indian Patent Office, as OpenGov Asia had reported.

The Android version has been developed separately for patients and doctors. It opens up universal and transferable healthcare information management and emphasises data privacy and tracking the spread of infectious diseases across geographies. It allows the interoperability of systems from multiple hospitals, institutes, and healthcare organisations. The patient can choose to visit any healthcare facility on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without any concerns about duplication of records or re-registrations. This is one of the first implementations of blockchain technology for securing healthcare data management systems. The approach is expected to make an impact in securely digitising and maintaining unique patient records across the country and eventually across the world.

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