The digital health information system will be beneficial for all stakeholders, including patients and healthcare providers. It will improve efficiency, ensure transparency, and save time.
‘A digital Health ID has been developed for all Indians. It contains detailed health information of patients, enabling better, streamlined access to healthcare in a more convenient way.’
It will also dramatically improve patients’ experience in accessing healthcare, as they will be able to make appointments, procure lab reports, and consult doctors in a hassle-free manner.
Besides having the potential to revolutionize healthcare in the coming years, it is also likely to strengthen India’s economic growth due to cost savings through optimal utilization of health interventions. This novel initiative was announced by the Prime Minister during his Independence Day speech on 15th August 2020.
Salient Features of the New Digital Health ID
- The Health ID consists of a 14-digit secure coding system, unique to each patient
- The Health ID will be free of cost, consent-based and voluntary
- The Health ID will contain the following information:
- Patient’s personal details – name, year of birth, gender, mobile number, e-mail, and Aadhaar card number (optional)
- Doctors consulted
- Tests conducted
- Disease information
- Medicines prescribed
- The Health ID will consist of the following 6 components:
- Health ID
- Health facility registry
- Personal health records
- Data safety issues will be prioritized to ensure the privacy of personal information
- Healthcare will not be denied to patients even if they don’t opt for the Health ID
- Health ID for children below the age of 18 years can be generated by their parents on their behalf
- The Health ID will be accessed by the following stakeholders:
- Hospitals (public and private sectors)
- Community health centers
- Health and wellness centers
- Telemedicine providers
- Online pharmacies
- Insurance companies
Advantages of the New Digital Health ID
- Portability and Accessibility: It can be accessed even if the patient changes his residential address and consults a new doctor
- Unique Identification: The Health ID will be linked to the patient’s mobile number/e-mail ID to generate a 14-digit unique identification. It may also be linked to the Aadhaar card, but this is optional
- Robust Analytical Capability: Accurate analysis of health data will enable better health planning, such as patient triage
- Better Healthcare Delivery: Implementation and financing of health programs will become more streamlined and lead to cost-optimization
- Economic Gains: Digital health planning has the potential to add an additional USD 250 billion to India’s GDP over the next decade
- Efficient Tracking of Vaccination Programs: The unique Health ID could be used to track vaccinations, which is likely to play a pivotal role in the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination drives
Disadvantages of the New Digital Health ID
There are likely to be some hurdles and roadblocks in implementing the new digital Health ID. These are briefly highlighted below:
- Meagre health budget could hamper the digitization process, which is very costly
- In rare instances, privacy could be compromised, although the chances are slim
- Low penetration of internet coverage in rural areas could hinder the program
- Poor access to computers and low computer literacy among rural folk could be problematic
Failure of UK’s Digital Health System: What Lessons Can India Learn?
A digital Health ID system was launched in 2005 by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Although several hospitals participated in the initiative by acquiring electronic health records of patients, there was hardly any exchange of information among hospitals under the NHS.
As a result, this initiative failed miserably. Another factor that led to the failure was the enormous running-cost, amounting to £12 billion. Hence, the initiative was not practically feasible and therefore dismantled.
Importantly, this was one of the most expensive healthcare IT failures in the world. Therefore, while implementing the digital Health ID system, India should avoid these pitfalls and take heed from the failure of one of the best health systems in the world.
From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that the advantages of the new digital Health ID far outweigh the disadvantages. This unique and novel technology has been developed on time and will help track people who will be immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Importantly, since the majority of the COVID-19 vaccines have two-doses, this technology will be vital for tracing people to ensure that they also take the second dose. If both doses are not taken, then immunity at the individual level will be very low, and herd immunity will not develop at the community level, which could jeopardize the whole COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
- National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India – (https://ndhm.gov.in/)
- Aadhaar-like health IDs under digital health plan: 10 things to know – (https://www.livemint.com/news/india/aadhaar-like-health-ids-under-digital-health-plan-10-things-to-know-11602656724708.html)
- Explained: What is the National Health ID, announced by PM Narendra Modi? – (https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-the-national-health-id-announced-by-pm-modi-6556155/)