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India hosts a Global Digital Health Partnership Summit

Image credit: The National Health Portal; Twitter

India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) inaugurated the 4th Global Digital Health Partnership Summit, earlier this week.

The summit is a global intergovernmental meeting on digital health and is hosted by MoHFW in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Global Digital Health Partnership (GDHP).

According to its website, the GDHP’s objective is to support governments and health system reformers to improve the health and well-being of citizens through the best use of evidence-based digital technologies.

Participants at the summit discussed the uses of technological innovations to advance Indian healthcare. The country’s current healthcare system being delivered and accessed is poised to change for the better and digital health interventions are driving this change.

Technology could make Universal Health Coverage (UHC) a reality, something India has been pushing for.

During the event, representatives talked about the implications of digital health interventions to health services accessibility, quality, and affordability. They explored ways to leverage digital health technologies to strengthen healthcare delivery systems globally.

The Indian government has launched several initiatives to support the digitalisation of its healthcare sector. It is, according to a press release, “committed to reaching the last man in the line through digital health interventions and digital inclusion.”

One of these initiatives is the National Health Protection Scheme for the underprivileged. It has Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) at the primary and secondary levels of healthcare and Jan Arogya Yojana at the tertiary level.

The National Health Protection Scheme is “completely digital” and all the processes, from beneficiary identification to hospital empanelment and settlement of claims, are done electronically. It facilitates cashless, paperless, and transparent transactions.

Another government project is Modicare. Within 155 days of its launch, about US $224 million was used to treat nearly 1.3 million people.

Additionally, the government has “embraced digital health to achieve the targets of UHC” and even set up a National Resource Centre for electronic health record (EHR) standards.

India’s healthcare providers have been notified about health informatics regulations. The government has also approved metadata and data standards to enable the exchange of information across companies and departments to make these systems interoperable and to build citizen EHRs.

At the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, India introduced the Resolution on Digital Health, which was adopted by WHO.

The resolution highlighted the potential, challenges, and opportunities of digital health interventions and the need for closer collaboration between countries trying to achieve the UN’s health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets.

Among other suggestions, the resolution urged member states to assess their use of digital technologies for health, including in health information systems, in order to identify areas of improvement. Also, to prioritise the development, evaluation, and implementation of digital technologies, as a means of promoting equitable, affordable, and universal access to health for all.

To further promote digital health, the MoHFW is in the process of establishing an Integrated Health Information Platform for interoperability among IT health systems and a pan-India exchange of citizen EHR while ensuring privacy, security, and confidentiality of data. The same is to be supplemented by a pan-Indian network of disease surveillance, telemedicine, teleradiology, and tele-education.

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