India and the Netherlands on Thursday unveiled plans for a joint thrust in the e-health sector, with the aim of providing digital health facilities and security to every Indian.
Part of India’s ambitious National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), this cooperative initiative will see the two countries work closely to create capacities and put in place the requisite technology backbone to enable this revolutionary initiative.
The alliance was announced at a web-based workshop hosted by management consultancy firm Primus Partners.
Unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day address, the NDHM aims to create a centralised mechanism to uniquely identify every participating user by storing their medical records. The objective of the programme is to improve care quality significantly and provide better access to healthcare, using analytics, and aggregated and anonymised data mining.
NDHM holds the potential to unlock incremental economic value of over $200 billion for the healthcare sector over the next 10 years.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to tap the growing potential of the digital health sector. NDHM is a revolutionary idea and vast in scope. Merging technology with traditional health knowledge is a novel idea,” India’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, Venu Rajamony, said.
“Where the Netherlands comes in is not just as an economic partner, but also as a proponent of e-health. The Netherlands and Europe are world leaders in this space and their experience will see India benefit tremendously as it rolls out this digital health initiative,” he added.
The Netherlands’ Counsellor for Health, Welfare and Sport Marcel Floor said: “This is a path-changing alliance and in the best interests of patients in India and around the world. Healthcare is changing profoundly, and no institution or government can fight it alone.
“Nations and institutions have to pool resources and the Covid-19 pandemic has taught the world work how to together in an unprecedented manner. Today’s alliance will see us work together to take quality healthcare to the masses.”
Under the NDHM, there will be a main Open Digital Ecosystem (ODE) which will drive healthcare transformation in India. This will include transparency of information with ‘health registries’ acting as the single source of information for all stakeholders.
Ability of all stakeholders to use data interoperable between different stakeholders will allow patients to share their digital health records across providers, while standardised claim processing, digitised prescriptions and development of patient-centric innovations will improve healthcare in India.
J. Satyanarayana, Chairman, National Digital Health Blueprint Committee, said the alliance with the Netherlands was only the first step in building a digital health backbone in the country.
“We finalised the NDHM blueprint late last year and are only now embarking on the implementation. We are using a federated PRESS NOTE architecture model to set and follow global standards in this initiative. We started small, but beginning with this announcement today, we will scale things up quickly now.”
Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, said: “We have created the necessary infrastructure and capacities to take this programme forward. We now have the capability to conduct 500,000 consultations in the country every day. We are using a mission approach and focusing heavily on IT, ensuring that issues like privacy and data integrity are taken care in a world-best manner.”
The NDHM’s vision is to create a national digital health ecosystem which provides timely and efficient access to inclusive, affordable, and safe healthcare to all citizens, significantly improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of health service delivery and be a major stride towards achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Universal Health Coverage.
Noting that the digital health sector in India is growing at an 18 per cent Compounded Annualised Growth Rate (CAGR) and is expected to touch billions of dollars in the ongoing year itself, Primus Partners CEO and co-founder Nilaya Verma said that they were delighted that India and the Netherlands are partnering in this initiative.
“We have already received over 58 business proposals over 18 business sectors and today’s alliance will only see these numbers go up,” Deepak Bagla, Managing Director and CEO, Invest India, said.
NDHM is envisioned to be a complete digital health ecosystem with four key features – National Health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry. At a later stage, it will also include e-pharmacy and telemedicine services, regulatory guidelines for which are being framed.
In this regard, it is proposed to explore bilateral collaborations between Dutch and Indian organisations in the healthcare sector, especially with respect to the NDHM.