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Digitising health records – National Digital Health Mission

Digitising health records – National Digital Health Mission

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2-   Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,
Education, Human Resources.

Digitising health records – National Digital Health Mission

Digitising health records is not only a good thing, but a desperately needed intervention because it increases accountability, improves patient outcomes, and advances evidence-based policymaking. Electric Medical Records (EMIs).

In this regard, NITI Aayog’s National Health Stack Bluebook and the health ministry’s National Digital Health Blueprint was released.

The idea behind this was,

  • Instead of ferrying medical records in polythene bags from doctor to doctor, Indians should be able to access their lab reports, x-rays and prescriptions irrespective of where they were generated, and share them with doctors or family members — with consent.
  • Evolving jurisprudence in India, like the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, called for the portability of personal data in a “structured format”, essentially laying the foundation for Indians to have a right to their data in a manner consistent with 21st-century digital realities.
  • It is one thing to have access to the PDF of patient’s laboratory results — which they can already do and can forward to their doctor.
  • But to be able to download and run an app of people’s choice that trends their results from various labs, and triggers alerts to their doctor would be incredibly helpful.
  • To trust that the app will not sell citizens data would be a game changer.
  • The free movement of health data is not without risks — the concerns with universal IDs are particularly salient when it comes to sensitive personal data like health data.
  • Hospital ethics boards and national data privacy laws are only now grappling with difficult questions about third-party use.
  • The proposed NDHM architecture, has two distinguishing characteristics that may help ameliorate these concerns.
  • NDHM is non-prescriptive
  • The NDHM is non-prescriptive — unlike its predecessor from a few years ago, it steers away from designing a monolithic EMR (electronic medical record) and instead only provides the scaffolding upon which the market can compete to develop a range of applications that would facilitate data exchange between patients, providers and payers.
  • Where hospital administrators have failed, the market may rise to meet clinicians’ needs.
  • Consent Manager Framework
  • The architecture seeks to protect patients by the rather elegant use of the consent manager framework.
  • This has already been successfully used by the Universal Payment Interface.
  • Health information can travel between entities only with requisite permission and with permanent record of the transaction.
  • This is to ensure that if A wants X information from B, A is in fact authorised to receive it, and what she is receiving is indeed X.

Way forward:

  • The potential here for changing how health data are utilised is unlimited.
  • Success is likely to be measured by an acceleration in cashless transactions, better book-keeping, decreased friction in payments.
  • For patients and providers, however, success will look different.
  • The portability of clinically-relevant data across private-public divides and states will cut costs and save time.
  • The ability to monitor compliance can profoundly alter practice and improve the quality of care, and the ability to conduct timely institution-based syndromic surveillance may alter the course of an epidemic, and of a nation.

Source:”Indian Express”.


Digitising health records brings immense benefits; however, it is not without concerns. How does the National Digital Health Mission strive to bring a credible digital health programme in India?