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What is the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)?: Explained.

Bhavish Sharma • Oct 1st, 2020 • 4 min read
n August 15th, the government unveiled the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). Our Hon. Prime Minister conveyed in his Independence Day address that it is a campaign in which technology will play a significant role in revolutionizing India’s health sector. Each individual would be provided with a Unique Health ID (UHID) by the government which will act as a “Health Account”.

So what exactly is the aim of NDHM?

NDHM aims to digitize the healthcare system in India to provide universal health care with more efficiency. The UHID will link a person’s health accounts in the same way a UPI links a person’s bank accounts. The idea is to have a singular source of information for the healthcare industry as well.

How does NDHM help India’s healthcare system? 

There are four major solutions that NDHM offers to the healthcare community:

1. Interoperability - According to the BusinessLine, approximately 98% of healthcare facilities in India employ ten people or less showing the varied and fragmented nature of healthcare facilities that exist in India. Most of the data is dispersed across these channels. It means that whilst every unit has its own data; such data is not transferable or usable by other facilities. NDHM can help solve this issue and make the data at hand inter-operable by connecting these multiple databases so that healthcare facilities can access any data at a single place.

2. Efficiency - Every individual patient record can be obtained by the healthcare facilities and stakeholders, given the individual’s consent, of course. A longitudinal patient history will help overcome the archaic nature of the healthcare process and speed things up. There is no longer a need for the patient to store documents and have them in their possession physically at the time of consultation with a doctor. Access to a patient’s medical history will also allow doctors to formulate a more accurate treatment plan and increase the probability of a correct diagnosis.

3. Macro-level healthcare - NDHM through digitization will help the government implement their healthcare programs such as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, a program aimed at providing healthcare to around 10 crore families in India who are poor or in the lower middle class bracket. NDHM can help in identifying the likelihood of diseases or infections among the population. According to Forbes, the digitization of health information into one database can help in tackling pandemics and is an important milestone in the field of biomedical research. The macro-level data that will be made available to researchers and medical practitioners will play a crucial role in improving the quality of healthcare in our country. 
4. Consent Control - The intent of NDHM is to make the patient the owner of their medical data. Earlier, an individual had no control over the data that was being recorded by a specific hospital unit. The healthcare units owned the data that was generated. Now, with NDHM, a patient has consent control. The patient can control what medical history can be shared with whom and for how long that piece of information can be shared.

However, there are challenges that lie ahead when it comes to the implementation of NDHM. Standardization of the data would be difficult to achieve as data is stored in multiple formats, often not structured. More importantly, there are capacity building issues as well, a large amount of population would require training for the implementation of NDHM. But with time, one can hope that India overcomes these challenges as the digitization of healthcare in a country as populous as ours is imperative to ensure accessible healthcare for all. 

The National Digital Health Mission is indeed a right and appropriate step towards the direction in achieving the ultimate goal of universal healthcare in India.

It is a win-win for everyone i.e. the company and the workers, that the company provides health benefits to all its employees.

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