By Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw
In the 75 years since Independence, India has recorded significant improvements in healthcare. Life expectancy has doubled from 35 years in 1950 to 70 years today. Most infectious diseases have been brought under control. Many key indicators of rural healthcare have also improved: The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has reduced from 161 per thousand in 1960 to less than 30 per thousand today.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the urgent need to build a better and more resilient national healthcare system. To leapfrog its healthcare system to meet future challenges, India will need to deploy technology in a big way and transform every stage of healthcare delivery so that it is more accessible, empowering and effective.
Digital technology has already enabled India to develop a mega population database with an Unique Identification Number-based system covering over a billion people. Aadhaar, as this world’s largest digital endeavour has been christened, reflects the foundational power of digital technology that can be leveraged for social governance from direct cash benefits to healthcare and beyond.
The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) based on Aadhaar has truly democratised payments and helped the cause of financial inclusion. The pandemic has also seen the most effective use of Aadhaar in creating comprehensive and reliable databases for RT-PCR tests and vaccination at a scale and sophistication that is not seen anywhere in the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Digital Health Mission on August 15, 2020 wherein every Indian will be eligible to voluntarily sign up for a Health ID, which can serve as a unified interface for all the healthcare records of an individual.
The digital health ID initiative can help India develop a universal healthcare system based on electronic health records (EHRs) and e-Health Centres. Digital technology can provide innovative and effective solutions to help maintain good health in patients of chronic disease after the diagnosis is made or surgery is done.
Availability of longitudinal EHRs will make it easier for doctors and healthcare workers to get a good and customized view of each individuals’ journey. Investing in building a robust digital architecture will support healthcare platforms and networks across the country.
Technology can be a game-changer for the Indian health sector. It will enable the government to usher in a transformation wherein we can enhance quality and compliance in healthcare, widen reach and enable data integrity. This will entail policy changes to facilitate strong private innovation, which is deployed on public digital infrastructure for overall societal good.
This transformational idea can thus help fulfil the vision of the national health policy of promoting wellness, universal access and affordable care to all Indians.
(The writer is the Executive Chairperson, Biocon & Biocon Biologics)