New Delhi: Hailed as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, India is stepping into the future with a special focus on digitisation of healthcare services. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that for one person to be healthy, everybody needs to be healthy. Either we are all healthy, or we are not. Even a single person’s ill-health makes us all susceptible and at risk. If we want to achieve our goal of holistic good health for every Indian, we can only do it if we, as individuals, civil society, corporates, not-for-profits, healthcare experts and the government come together.
Health cannot be a privilege; it must be the right of every Indian. To talk about this, RS Sharma, CEO of, National Health Authority joined NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s 12-hour Lakshya – Sampoorn Swasthya Ka Telethon.
Under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), National Health Authority (NHA) had announced the launch of the Unified Health Interface (UHI) on January 12, 2022. The Unified Health Interface (UHI) is an open and interoperable IT network for digital health in India. Sharing information about UHI, Mr Sharma said,
The idea has come basically from the unified payment interface. This means, we want to have a complete interoperability, like a unified payment interface. You are able to transfer money from any bank, to any bank; from any bank, to any wallet; bank to any person also on telephone number or whatever. So, we are creating a framework where anybody can search for doctors, ambulances, blood banks, using the same standard API (Application Programming Interface). Then, to get the results. Finally, one should be able to avail the services, which means you can do tele-consultation, go there and get the vaccination done, or donate the blood.
Elaborating more on the Unified Health Interface, Mr Sharma said,
We are talking of interoperable telecommunication, interoperable commerce and purchasing of medicines. We are talking of interoperable booking of let us say in the hospital or ambulance and things like. That is the overall comprehensive framework, which essentially will actually enlarge the availability of services to everybody without everybody downloading these applications.
India had launched CoWIN app to rollout COVID vaccination, said to be the world’s largest vaccination drive. The plan is to repurpose CoWIN for all vaccinations, and even blood and organ donations. Giving out details of how this roll out will happen, Mr Sharma said,
This is also a part of the same health stack essentially. CoWIN provides for the citizens; it provides services to locate the vaccination centers, provides the information as to where the vaccines are available and which vaccination center is providing, which vaccine. Hospitals are able to publish their vaccination timetable. From citizen’s point of view, they are able to download the certificate. From the vaccinator point of view, they are able to identify a person and vaccinate, right? These are all stakeholders, the vaccinator, the hospital, the patient. Now, what we are saying is, there is fundamentally no difference between the COVID vaccination and the immunisation.
While it is important that our health services are digitised, in India we have many vulnerable groups like tribals who are marginalised and require healthcare access the most. When asked how the vulnerable group access the technology, Mr Sharma stressed on inclusivity. He said,
For example, in CoWIN, we had the system of prior registration, but we also had the system of walk-ins where people would come and get vaccinated and digital reports created. We have also created places of assistance and common service areas at the village level, which provides these kinds of small digital services to the people. And fortunately, now we have mobile numbers, at least feature phones with everybody. Like during Covid, we had said that on one account six family members could be added and digital records created. Similarly, we will have this also. Not everyone needs to have a smartphone. There could be one member in the family who has a smartphone, and then, you know, every family member could come into that.
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 o