Editorial Analysis for 4th September 2020

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Mind the gaps in India’s health care digital push


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.


Public consultations over the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM).


National Digital Health Mission (NDHM):

  • The NDHM envisages digitizing all data relating to all patients available not just with government and private hospitals but also with diagnostic centres, laboratories and individual practitioners of all systems of medicine.
  • Capturing data relating to patients and their digitizing could help all stakeholders including the patients, the doctors who attend to them and the healthcare facilities where they seek treatment.
  • The NDHM will help revitalize India’s healthcare delivery systemby connecting doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers in an integrated digital health infrastructure.
  • The scheme promises an end-to-end, hands-free digital experience.
  • The National Health Stack (NHS)envisages a centralized health record for all citizens of the country in order to streamline the health information and facilitate its effective management.
  • It aims to create a unified health identity of citizens.
  • The NHS seeks to employ the latest technology including Big Data Analytics and Machine Learning Artificial Intelligence.
  • A registry of over eight lakh doctors, 10 lakh pharmacists and over 60,000 hospitals is under preparation. At a later stage, online pharmacies, insurance companies and other stakeholders will be added to the ‘Stack’.
  • The scheme intends to replace existing data generation systems with new homogenised software for all machines in the health sector in the country with a central processor that will extract the relevant data from individual records.

National Health Mission:

  • The National Health Mission through the IT network is connected to most public health centres even in tribal areas. Personal health data are generated by name until the primary health centre level but not transmitted to higher levels except aggregated numerical data.
  • Many States have achieved some breakthroughs in the area of digital health within the framework of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).


  • The implementation of the NDHM would require the healthcare institutions in the government as well as the private sector to upgrade their available resources and data maintenance practices.
  • Despite the claims that patient data safety and confidentiality would be ensured, the data is vulnerable given that it is getting stored in a decentralised system holding transferable data.
  • The NDHM will entail huge financial resources for its implementation.
  • Digitization is not the immediate problem facing the health sector.While the digitization of healthcare data could help, what many Indians face are unaddressed issues in the health sector.
  • Many tertiary hospitals and medical colleges rarely consider diagnostic reports from peripheral centres or even the prescriptions of previous doctors and often repeat the procedures. This would render past records redundant for the patients.
  • Health is under the State List. The national-level digitization plan without consultation with the state governments is a cause of concern.


  • The article argues that the NDHM may not be the best way to go about addressing data gaps and suggests that instead, the existing practices and systems for the compilation of data as in the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and the Health Management Information System (IDSP-HMIS) could have been reformed for better efficiency and effectiveness.

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