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Pharma wrap: How PM Modi’s National Digital Health Mission can reduce overall health expenses

Experts say, apart from convenience for the patient, or not storing and carrying the health records physically, if implemented well, it can reduce overall healthcare expenses.

August 16, 2020 / 01:41 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Independence Day speech, launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), an initiative to digitise health records of Indians.

Modi said NDHM will bring a new revolution in India's health sector and technology will be used prudently to reduce the challenges in treatment.

As per NDHM, every Indian will be given a Health ID. The Health ID will work like a Health Account of every Indian. The account will contain details of every test, every disease, the doctors you visited, the medicines prescribed and the diagnosis.

"The National Digital Health Mission will eliminate all these difficulties related to appointments with a doctor, depositing money, making a slip in the hospital, etc. We are devising a system which will help each and every citizen to make a better and informed decision," Modi said.

Will NDHM be game changer?

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Experts say, apart from convenience for the patient, or not storing and carrying the health records physically, if implemented well, it can reduce overall healthcare expenses.

There are numerous examples of patients, who move from a small town to a metro city seeking for instance cancer care, have to repeat most of the tests that were already performed, including the expensive tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and other imaging tests. Even biopsy tests are asked to be repeated.

To be sure, there could be genuine reasons for asking for repeat of such tests, because either the previous test was not performed in a format that's acceptable or there is a missing piece of information critical to diagnosing the case. Also the patient might not be carrying one of his test reports with him.

But, many a time, there are possible commercial reasons, as well for repeating tests. The cost of diagnostics is substantial in cancer care.

By digitising health records, this duplicity of tests can be avoided, first by bringing standardisation of tests and reducing burden on patients.

The digitisation of records also enables whether correct care has been given to the patient or not.

"This will help in providing prompt and accurate treatment, especially in emergencies by avoiding repetition of medical history taking and unwarranted tests. Carrying bags full of reports to different hospitals and loss of physical reports will no longer be an issue," Dr. Hardik Ajmera, Deputy Medical Director, Mumbai-based Saifee Hospital.

"Providing a unique identification to doctors as well as health facilities can lead to streamlining several issues of quality and accountability," says Charu Sehgal, Partner at Life Sciences and Healthcare Industry Leader, Deloitte India.

Most leading hospitals, diagnostic chains, medical insurance companies and state and Central governments which are implementing health insurance schemes, do have digital health records. But the problem is the data is so far stored in silos, and doesn't interact.

For instance, health insurance companies have access to the data, they can better underwrite policies and the pricing of premiums would be more dynamic.

"Digital health not only improves a patient’s quality of life but it also decreases the overall expenses incurred by a patient over their lifetime, reducing bills for patients and care providers alike," says Dr Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals.

Viswanath Pilla
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Aug 16, 2020 01:41 pm