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Ayushman Bharat and all other govt health schemes to integrate with digital health mission

Govt document says the mission, in its first phase, will pilot in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, among others, towards month-end.

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New Delhi: All government health programmes such as the flagship Ayushman Bharat and tuberculosis schemes will have to integrate with the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), and beneficiaries will be issued unique health IDs, ThePrint has learnt.

According to an NDHM strategy document accessed by ThePrint, the mission, in its first phase, will pilot in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, Ladakh and Puducherry.

The document stated that the original plan was to pilot the mission before 15 August. But sources said it is now slightly delayed and will be done only towards the end of this month.

While there is speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might announce the mission in his 15 August speech, there is no clarity yet on that matter, the sources added.

The Rs 144-crore NDHM — to be led by the National Health Authority (and not the health ministry) — aims to create a digital ecosystem for healthcare through creation of personal digital health IDs, unique identifiers for doctors and health facilities, and personal health records. 

ThePrint reported last month about how the NHA, which is the implementing agency for the Ayushman Bharat scheme, was working on creating a digital health ecosystem.

Also read: Govt moves to digitise health records quickly, asks states to send data but ensure privacy

Linking health ID with Aadhaar not mandatory

The NDHM strategy document stated: “All government health programmes, notified under applicable statutory provisions, are required to integrate with the service and issue health IDs as part of their programmes.”

It added: “This will ensure that health information from visit to public health facilities and those being captured across various health programmes like RCH (reproductive and child health), NIKSHAY (TB reporting portal), NCD (non-communicable diseases), PM-JAY (Ayushman Bharat) will be included in the patients’ longitudinal health record.”

Obtaining a health ID, however, will not mean the inclusion of all benefits under the schemes, said the document. “Eligibility for a specific scheme like PM-JAY will be verified and linked to the respective health ID. All government health insurance schemes as well are expected to adopt and link the health ID for benefits linkage.”

There will be an option of the health ID being linked to Aadhaar, but it will not be mandatory unless the person wants to avail of any government subsidy schemes. 

The document, however, said: “Individuals shall be encouraged to move towards linking these or towards a single health ID and to obtain a unique health ID based on Aadhaar.” 

The ID will be generated mainly in health facilities at the first instance of the patient reporting there or by organisations that run schemes like PM-JAY and CGHS (central government health scheme). 

Administrative architecture

The NHA will lead the implementation of the NDHM, and coordinate with different ministries and departments at the Centre, states, the private sector, and civil society organisations. 

According to the National Digital Health Mission blueprint, it will keep two separate arms — one for regulation (Mission Steering Group), and the other for implementation and operational management (Empowered Committee).

The Mission Steering Group will be chaired by the minister for health and family welfare and will include the ministers of electronics and information technology (MeitY), social justice, women and child development (WCD) and AYUSH, the principal scientific advisor, member (health) NITI Ayog, CEO, and additional CEO of NHA, and one additional secretary from the health ministry.

The Empowered Committee will be set up under the chairpersonship of health secretary. Its members will be the NITI Aayog CEO, secretaries of WCD, MeitY, social justice, AYUSH, health research, expenditure, and CEO, NHA, among others.

The committee will take the necessary policy-level decisions, help the mission for coordination with different stakeholders and engagement with different ministries and departments to ensure their participation in the NDHM. 

“The MoHFW will provide overall supervision and guidance for the implementation of NDHM to the National Health Authority. In addition, the ministry will also work towards the legal and regulatory framework for NDHM and help the NHA coordinate with states/UTs and the private sector to ensure their participation in the NDHM. The ministry will also issue necessary directions for adoption of the NDHM by all health-related initiatives across the country,” the document stated.

A National Policy on Security of Health Systems and Privacy of Personal Health Records will be developed, in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, the document added.

All the building blocks that require handling personal health records will be designed to comply with such a policy at the outset, it said.

Also read: Ayushman Bharat can be a success if Modi govt incentivises digital data for private players


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