The forthcoming Union Budget should focus on digitisation of Indian health system, as it will create a platform to bring together disparate information such as health and health infrastructure, status related to nutrition, disability, sanitation, education, economic standing, etc. which can help in forming a cohesive and holistic action-oriented policy on integrated health, stated Kamal Narayan Omer, CEO, Integrated Health & Wellbeing (IHW) Council.
The Delhi-based IHW Council is a premier think tank, engaging in everything concerned with health and wellbeing of human enterprise and existence.
“Given that private players provide about 70 per cent of healthcare services in India, and historically private enterprises have played a significant role in its growth and economic development, increased budgetary allocation and better public spending will help drive their participation in widening the scope and reach of healthcare. However, as India begins to turn the corner with National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) and approved vaccines to combat Covid-19 that will help alleviate fear of infection, budgetary allocation must be made to ensure weaker players in the health sector struggling with operational hurdles such as infrastructure upgrade are not left out,” stated Omer.
Omer added that digitisation will foster better understanding and monitoring of disease prevalence, timely and pre-emptive measures in case of potential outbreaks, and gather India-centric population-based data that will boost medical research.
In conjunction with Ayushman Bharat that reduces out-of-pocket expenditure for healthcare, digitisation of healthcare can create programs for sending reminders to enrolled patients for their next appointment and prevent people from poorer background to drop follow-up treatment and help them adhere to treatment schedule. This can bring a revolutionising effect on diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, and leprosy that see a large number of patients defaulting (stopping treatment before completion of treatment regimen).
During the last budget when Covid-19 was gripping the world, the total health outlay was Rs. 69,000 crore, amounting to 1.6 per cent of GDP against an aimed 2.5 per cent, of which the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) received about Rs. 65,012 crore.
“While the government-backed health system in India is still largely paper based, especially in rural and remote areas, the private healthcare system is a fragmented market with multiple players – single-doctor clinics, standalone nursing homes, non-profits, and corporate hospitals. All these players can be brought together on one platform under the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August last year. The six key aspects of NDHM – health ID, DigiDoctor, health facility registry, personal health records, e-pharmacy, and telemedicine – can make it a game changer,” added Omer.