National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) is constantly evolving to widen its reach to the poor and needy: Dr. Praveen Gedam

New Delhi: The inaugural Healthcare Talk by the Max Institute of Healthcare Management (MIHM) at the Indian School of Business (ISB) was successfully concluded. It featured Dr. Praveen Gedam, Additional CEO, National Health Authority who was in conversation with Prof. Sarang Deo, Executive Director, MIHM and Professor, Operations Management, ISB on the “National Digital Health Mission: Early experience and way forward”.

Dr. Gedam has been at the forefront of developing and implementing India’s digital health initiatives. As an advocate of telehealth and digital medicine, which intercepts perfectly with the need of the hour in the post-COVID era, he described the journey of the PM-JAY and Ayushman Bharat. He said, “When PM-JAY was conceptualized in early 2018, we were tasked to roll out the scheme in a very short span of time. We faced several challenges. The Government was already implementing health schemes like the CGHS which had a traditional fee-for-service model which may not be feasible for such a large population. So, we made health packages and digitized everything which made the operations and scaling very fast and smooth.”

Talking about the major challenges during the rollout, he added, “While explaining the eligibility criteria to a layman was difficult, balancing interests of both the private and the public sectors was another challenge we faced. However, despite this, we onboarded 32 out of 36 States/UTs. But, adjusting to every State’s working style is a continuing challenge, and we are constantly evolving to widen our reach to the poor and needy.” Acknowledging that Ayushman Bharat has now by and large stabilized, he said, “The initial hiccups have been overcome but now we need to keep evolving with the needs of the society. The pandemic has changed the way healthcare is provided and has disrupted the health economics. We have adopted our packages accordingly, and have developed standard treatment guidelines and checklists in a conscious effort to bring pan-India uniformity.”

Expounding on the core model of NDHM, Dr. Gedam said, “NDHM is essentially an implementation of the national digital health blueprint which was released by the Government of India in 2019. We have a variety of health solutions in India, ranging from standalone clinics to hi-end public and private hospitals with state-of-the-art technology. NDHM will integrate all of these so that a doctor is able to access the longitudinal medical history of his patient across hospitals at one place. This is particularly important for emergency cases and for research evaluation for public health interventions.” H added, “We will also ensure privacy and confidentiality of patient data by assigning unique a health id to every hospital, doctor, lab, nurse, etc. Once the linkages are established across the digital health ecosystem, the information from federated health storage model will become accessible on one platform, but with patient’s consent.”

On the way forward for NDHM, Dr. Gedam said, there is a multiplicity of mechanisms for health schemes. “We want to make NDHM an umbrella scheme with different packages and bring more uniformity in the sector. Unique health id will help establish linkages within the ecosystem. Transitioning from the present federated data storage model to a repository of health data, accessible with the patient’s consent, will help the patients identify most apt care providers as well as help the doctors in understanding complete medical history of the patient, thus increasing the ease of doing business in the healthcare industry.”

Prof. Sarang Deo remarked that, “NHA has been very flexible and open to feedback and suggestions. I am happy to see that they have been constantly consulting the public and the private sector in order to understand the needs. The pandemic has completely changed how healthcare is delivered and given the digital push, NDHM has been undertaking concerted efforts in rolling out India’s first digital health mission.”

Organised by the Max Institute of Healthcare Management (MIHM) at the Indian School of Business, the ongoing ‘Healthcare Talks’ bring policymakers and healthcare leaders to share their experiences and insights on policy, trends and best practices in healthcare. The talk is open to the public and the ISB community, comprising ISB’s students, alumni, and staff, and professionals from the healthcare industry, including doctors, healthtech startups, academicians, and pharma.

 

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