NDHM: Paving the way for a digitized and connected healthcare system

Technology is highly pervasive and in a country like India, it plays a crucial role in realizing the goal of universal health coverage, writes Gaurav Gupta

About Author: Gaurav Gupta, Co-Founder & COO,  Navia Life Care. Gaurav leads the business team at Navia and is passionate about building a quality solution for the healthcare industry. Prior to this, Gaurav has successfully built two sustainable businesses, one being an enterprise solution for large billion-dollar enterprises and the other being a consumer product. An MBA from Indian School of Business, and an engineer from NSIT Delhi, Gaurav specializes in Strategy, Business Development and Marketing.

       Technology in the Indian healthcare sector has always been at a nascent stage but its rate of advancement and adoption is making the sector leapfrog into a highly digitized system. Imagine a scenario where the patients’ health records are accessible to healthcare facilitators in just a few clicks. It is possible and has been already happening in the industry through digital healthcare systems. However, the biggest challenge presented in enabling a digitized healthcare system is the population of India scattered in urban and rural areas. To overcome this problem  a shared digital infrastructure leveraging both public and private enterprises is the need of the hour to provide innovative solutions
National Digital Health Mission (NDHM)
To fulfill the vision of promoting holistic wellness, accessibility, and affordability, the Indian government has launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) that bridges the existing gap amongst different stakeholders of the Healthcare ecosystem through digital highways. The mission aims to develop the backbone necessary to support the integrated digital health infrastructure of the country.
The NDHM fulfills the country’s vision of providing universal health coverage through the primary stakeholders in the NDHM ecosystem including hospitals and clinics, labs and pharmacies, TPAs insurers, health tech companies, modern medicine and AYUSH doctors, and Central and State Government, program managers, regulators, associations and development partners, and NGOs. To enable technology adoption across the country, NDHM promises to create a state of the art online platform “through the provision of a wide range of data, information, and infrastructure services, duly leveraging open, interoperable, standards-based digital systems”. Furthermore, its tech-savvy agents will ensure efficient, safe, affordable, and inclusive healthcare accessible to every citizen of the country.
NDHM Sandbox (To support digital healthcare ecosystem)
Technology is highly pervasive and in a country like India, it plays a crucial role in realizing the goal of universal health coverage. The NDHM leverages new-age technology and has designed NDHM Sandbox that allows all products to be tested in compliance with NDHM standards. It is a framework that provides open access to all healthcare stakeholders to build/expand the product line in the healthcare industry while empowering the core building blocks of the mission. It includes health ID for every citizen, DigiDoctor (a unique identifier to every doctor of every stream of medicine), Health Facility Registry (a unique and standardized identifier to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and labs) that are projected to ensure an efficient and connected healthcare experience.
NDHM Sandbox’s integration and implications
The NDHM is expected to bring a myriad of benefits upon the integration of technologies with its building blocks. It is open for access to all stakeholders who send the request to NDHM sandbox to test the system after which they receive an access key to the Sandbox environment and APIs. Further, the stakeholder needs to integrate the specific APIs to showcase the demo to NHA for the final go-ahead. The system needs to be ready for successful implementation to further receive certification, get empanelled in the network, and go live in the real world.
The integration of NDHM Sandbox helps in obtaining the information on the relevancy, benefits, and risks associated with new emerging technologies/products. From health tech service providers to public health programs at the government level, NDHM helps in improving the understanding of how new health technologies are going to work with its building blocks. Furthermore, it empowers the users to test their products’ viability by notifying the users about any concerns related to the product that can be modified before going live in the market. From the consumer point of view, NDHM increases the outreach of health tech products and services at reduced costs and also results in improving accessibility.
Despite several benefits, NDHM Sandbox raises red flags to the new health technologies in the testing stage itself. However, it still fails to provide any legal waivers.  For an expansive application of the product or service, the experimenter would still need to seek necessary approvals and permission for wider outreach of the product/ technology.
India was longing for a more planned approach in the healthcare system integrated with new technologies and digitized structure. NDHM’s plan comprises actions that address the challenges in the conventional healthcare scenario. By simplifying the processes and improving accessibility, NDHM can play an integral role in the vision of providing universal health coverage across the country.