New Delhi: In February 2022, when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the financial year 2022-23, the country witnessed a special focus being given to digitisation in the healthcare sector. The two key announcements made by the FM include the roll-out of an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem and the launch of the National Tele-Mental Health Programme. Explaining the components of the national digital health ecosystem, in brief, FM Sitharaman had said, “It will consist of digital registries of health providers and health facilities, unique health identity, consent framework and universal access to health facilities.”
Lauding the initiative, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also said, “Leveraging the power of technology, the National Digital Health Ecosystem will significantly enhance ‘Ease of Living’ for citizens and create a healthier India.”
Leveraging the power of technology, the National Digital Health Ecosystem will significantly enhance 'Ease of Living' for citizens & create a healthier India.#AatmaNirbharBharatKaBudget pic.twitter.com/Ew70QaC9gX
— Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) February 1, 2022
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology – came to the rescue of people. Not only people with non-communicable or chronic diseases availed treatment online, but even COVID-19 patients also opted for online consultations.
Every new technological innovation in health is a step towards building a healthier and prosperous India. Here are some health tech innovations India is focussing on:
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission
Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 27, 2021, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission aims to bring all stakeholders related to health – patients, healthcare workers, paramedics, hospitals, clinics, labs and pharmacies – on a single platform. PM Modi said that the campaign aims to make health services easy and accessible in the country.
Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission includes Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) previously known as Health ID, Healthcare Professionals Registry (HPR) and Health Facility Registry (HFR).
- Ayushman Bharat Health Account allows you to create digital health records for yourself and your family and access and share them digitally. ABHA is a randomly generated 14-digit number used to uniquely identify you as a participant in India’s digital healthcare ecosystem. On the ABHA, all your records will be saved that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
- Healthcare Professionals Registry is a repository of all healthcare professionals involved in the delivery of healthcare services across both modern and traditional systems of medicine.
- Health Facility Registry is a comprehensive repository of health facilities in the country across different systems of medicine. It includes both public and private health facilities including hospitals, clinics, diagnostic laboratories and imaging centers, and pharmacies, among others.
eSanjeevani, Government Of India’s Free Telemedicine Service
Telemedicine that transcends geographical boundaries has made healthcare accessible and affordable. Through telemedicine, individuals living in rural and remote locations can avail services that are limited to urban areas, while saving on indirect expenses such as loss of daily wages and transportation. Launched in November 2019, the Union Health Ministry’s National Telemedicine Service – eSanjeevani has offered over 3 crore consultations as of March 25, 2022. eSanjeevani has two variants:
- eSanjeevani Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centre (AB-HWC): A Doctor-to-Doctor telemedicine service under Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centres scheme provides general and specialised health services in rural areas and isolated communities. Doctor-to-Doctor telemedicine service is based on a Hub-and-Spoke model. ‘eSanjeevani AB-HWC’ enables virtual connection between the beneficiary (along with the paramedic and a generalist) at the spoke that is HWC and the doctor/specialist at the hub (tertiary healthcare facility/hospital/medical college).
- eSanjeevaniOPD: This is a patient-to-doctor telemedicine service to enable people to get outpatient services in the confines of their homes.
Co-win, The Backbone Of World’s Largest Vaccination Drive
India rolled out the world’s largest vaccination drive on January 16, 2021 to vaccinate around 300 million priority groups against COVID-19. Gradually the vaccination drive was scaled up for the entire population. The COVID vaccination programme in India is backed by CoWIN, a digital platform to capture COVID-19 vaccination program details. CoWIN portal is a one-stop platform for finding the nearest vaccination center, registering for vaccination and getting a vaccine certificate.
Last year, on September 27, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the CoWIN platform – the government’s centralised digital service provider and records-keeper for COVID-19 vaccination appointments and certificates, declaring “from registration to certification, no system is as massive”.
Drone Delivery Of Medicines
In December 2021, the district administration of Palghar in Maharashtra carried out an experiment, in which it used a drone to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses in a remote village situated in a rugged terrain. In a press release, the district administration said,
As part of the exercise, a batch of 300 vaccines was transported from Jawhar to Zaap village. The task, which would have otherwise taken more than 40 minutes, was completed in just a little over nine minutes. The vaccines were delivered at the local public health centre.
On this Independence Day, a trial to use drones to provide superior healthcare services to tribal and rural communities in Seppa, a town in East Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh, was launched, reported news agency Press Trust of India. The healthcare drone pilots in Arunachal Pradesh are an outcome of the state’s partnership with the World Economic Forum’s Medicines From the Sky (MFTS) initiative.
— Pema Khandu པདྨ་མཁའ་འགྲོ་། (@PemaKhanduBJP) August 15, 2022
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.