The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, had crushed down the healthcare sector around the globe with low and middle-income countries facing the greatest difficulties. According to the WHO first indicative survey on the impact of COVID-19 on the health system published in the year 2020, based on 105 countries report, 90% of countries around the world reported disruption in providing health services since the pandemic struck.
Over the past few years, India has made significant development in the way the healthcare system in the country will function, but the emergence of human tragedy- COVID-19, had again shifted the glance on the issues in the health care system sidelined over the years. To improve the quality and health facilities provided, for several years the discussion on the enormous potential of the digital healthcare sector was conducted but somehow it got undermined.
But, with the onset of the catastrophic pandemic, the urgent need has been felt to make the system and people in the healthcare sector made more accountable and for this transparency needs to be brought in, which was long due.
National Digital Health Mission:
Underscoring the enormous potential of the digital healthcare sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2020, from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi launched the ‘National Digital Health Mission’, in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic with the aim to provide the necessary support for the integration of digital health infrastructure in the country.
“Another very big campaign is going to start in the country. This is the National Digital Health Mission. Every Indian will be given a health ID. National Digital Health Mission will bring a new revolution in India’s health sector. All your tests, every disease, which doctor gave you which medicine, when, what were your reports, all these information will be contained in this one health ID,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced.
The National Digital Health Mission, which comes under Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, will bridge the existing gap amongst different stakeholders of the Healthcare ecosystem through digital means.
The mission is currently rolled out in the Union Territories of Chandigarh, Ladakh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep. According to the government report, the expansion of the mission will be taken up after the evaluation of the outcome during Phase 1 of the project.
Under the National Digital Health Mission, patients can opt-in to create a Health ID allowing them to share their medical records with healthcare providers including doctor’s appointment, diagnosis of an ailment, line of treatment, hospitalization for any treatment, and drugs taken with an aim to provide high-quality healthcare for all.
The other key features of the mission are- Digi Doctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, and Electronic Medical Records.
According to the government’s record published in May 2021, nearly 11.9 lakh Health IDs have been generated and 3,106 doctors and 1490 facilities have registered on the platform.
India is at the cusp of the digital health revolution:
COVID-19 has accelerated an ongoing shift within the healthcare sector towards the use of digital health technologies.
Telemedicine- Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has become remarkably important. As the country-wide lockdown struck, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched eSanjeevaniOPD, owing to the ranging pandemic.
According to the government data (as of July 2021), the National Telemedicine Service- eSanjeevani has crossed another milestone by completing 7 million (70 lakh) consultations. In another significant milestone, in June it served around 12.5 lakh patients, which is the highest since the services were launched last year in March.
India fastest-growing digital health market
Fastest-growing digital economy
India is emerging as one of the fastest-growing digital economies in the world based on the digital adoption index. India’s health tech market is estimated to reach $21 Bn in 2025.
Digital health revolution can be achieved with the quick implementation of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Implementing these technologies at a faster pace during the healthcare diagnosis and treatment can help India run closer to the goal of digital health for all especially during a crisis situation.
Health tech startups booming In India:
Health tech startups have gained huge momentum in the recent five years, powered by the government push towards digitization, the uptake of innovative advances, and the emergence of health care applications. Several start-ups supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) are showing the way with stethoscopes that doctors can use without touching the patient, oxygen concentrator that can help the hospitals generate their in-house oxygen, and portable and app-controlled IoT (Internet of Things) based ventilator system.