THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 31 August 2020 The Future of Health(Indian Express)

The Future of Health(Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Health 
Prelims level: National Digital health mission
Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health


  • The launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) comes at a time when the country is reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The mission will go down in history as one of the game-changing policy initiatives launched in 21st-century India.
  • It will revolutionise the efforts of the government in enhancing effective health service delivery and help realise Prime Minister Modi’s vision of providing health services to every citizen.

Building the backbone:

  • Based on the principles of health for all, inclusivity, accessibility, affordability, education, empowerment, wellness, portability, privacy and security by design, the NDHM will build the backbone necessary to create an integrated digital health infrastructure.
  • With its key building blocks or applications, HealthID, DigiDoctor, Health Facility Registry, Personal Health Records, Telemedicine, and e-Pharmacy, the mission will bring together disparate stakeholders and radically strengthen — and, thus change — India’s healthcare delivery landscape.
  • NDHM is also a purposeful step towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of Universal Health Coverage — it encompasses key aspects of this goal including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services, medicines and vaccines for all.
  • Digital interventions significantly enhance the outcomes of every health service delivery programme.
  • Nowhere is this better demonstrated than the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana scheme, through which 1.2 crore cashless secondary and tertiary care treatments have been provided using an indigenously developed state-of-the-art IT platform.
  • This platform deploys multiple world-class technological applications founded on stringent data privacy and information security policies and protocols.
  • The Arogya Setu mobile app deploys ICT innovations for contract tracing to provide real-time information on COVID cases in the vicinity of the person with the app, and also suggests the course of action based on a patient’s symptoms.
  • These testing times have also propelled a large uptake of telemedicine initiatives, and there is great potential to expand this technology-driven endeavour.
  • Since the NDHM’s launch, several key stakeholders including doctors, healthcare providers and citizens have demonstrated their support for the project.
  • The NDHM is a product of years of policy research and is informed by the experiences gleaned from implementing the country’s technology-driven social welfare schemes as well as similar digital health programmes across the world.
  • The interest of the citizenis placed at the core of its design.

Principle highlights:

  • First, the NDHM is a voluntary scheme — HealthID is entirely voluntary for citizens. While such an ID will make availing healthcare radically simpler and stress-free, its absence will not mean denial of healthcare to a citizen.
  • They can choose to generate their Health Account or ID using their Aadhaar card or digitally authenticable mobile number and by using their basic address-related details and email ID. The use of Aadhaar, therefore, is not mandatory.
  • Second, providing access to and sharing of personal health records is a prerogative of the HealthID holder.
  • The consent of the health data owner is required to access this information or a part of it. The information can be shared for a period ranging from one hour to unlimited duration. The consent can be withdrawn anytime.
  • The personal health record will enable citizens to store and access their health data, provide them with more comprehensive information and empower them with control over their private health records.
  • Third, NDHM has been built within a universe of fundamental rights and pieces of legislation such as the Aadhaar Act and the IT Act 2008 as well as the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.
  • This citizen-centric project is also informed by the entire gamut of Supreme Court judgments and core democratic principles of cooperative federalism.
  • The Mission gets its strategic and technical foundation from the National Digital Health Blueprint, the architectural framework of which keeps the overall vision of NHP 2017 at its core and ensures security and privacy by design.
  • All the building blocks that require handling personal health records will be designed to comply with these laws and policies ab initio.
  • Fourth, many members of the general public would ask: If this is a digital mission led by technology powered by the internet, how will it reach out to and empower the large number of “unconnected” masses?
  • We have taken this reality into account and are building specialised systems and off-line modules that will be designed to reach out to the “unconnected”, marginalised, digitally illiterate, remote, hilly, and tribal populations.
  • We will leverage the unmatched reach, the physical and social connections and networks of our panchayati raj institutions, millions of ASHAs, and anganwadi workers to enable and empower citizens with digital technologies in the true spirit of SabkaSaath, SabkaVikaas.
  • Finally, and equally importantly, the design of NDHM has been built on the principle of partnership with all key stakeholders — doctors, health service providers, technology solution providers and above all citizens.
  • Without their belief, trust, adoption, and stewardship, this mission will not achieve its desired result.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the draft Health Data Management Policy of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), consider the following statements:

1. According to the document data collected across the National Digital Health Ecosystem (NDHE) will be stored only at the central level.
2. It encompasses various aspects pertaining to health data like data privacy, consent management, data sharing and protection.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Questions:

Q.1)Describe the key features and objectives of the National Digital Health Mission. What is the recent draft release of Health Data Management Policy and also discuss its relevance?