Couple Years of Protection:

Experts Columns

The Digital Touch of Healthcare

By 

Shri Alok Kumar (IAS)

Executive Director (SIFPSA) and Mission Director, National Health Mission UP

Technology is gradually changing the way healthcare is perceived and delivered in India. Right from demand to supply side – the entire spectrum of healthcare has received a major fillip by adoption of Health IT & Medical Technology

Catering to the health needs of 1.32 billion people of India, who account for nearly 18 percent of global population, is an incredible yet significant goal for the Central and State Governments. What makes the task humungous is the fact that almost 70 percent of our population resides in rural India. This implies that every day, our public healthcare system confronts the multiple diversities of terrain, access, reach, density, awareness, culture, etc, in order to take health solutions to communities living in remote and isolated corners of the country.

Despite all these challenges and limitations, it is commendable that public healthcare is striving to bring every individual under the ‘Continuum of Care’ and make Universal Health Coverage a reality. In this pursuit, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is playing an instrumental role in making healthcare system more efficient, faster and accessible.

Information Technology Helps

Adoption of Healthcare IT Systems such as Digital Health Record, Telemedicine, Hospital Information System (HIS), Mobile Technologies, Patient Management System, Medical Imaging, Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS), etc has revolutionised the dynamics of healthcare delivery in India. Also, Medical Technology (comprising medical equipments, implants, medical disposables & furniture) has further assisted in improving Quality of Care at health facilities.

Thanks to technology, a Health Service Provider at district level is now able to address medical emergencies in far-reaching villages without time lapse, while a Frontline Health Worker like ASHA is able to record & report health indicators of her community digitally, in real-time. At Management Side, technology has enabled faster mobility and archival of hospital data, patient records, etc, while at Demand Side, it has empowered patients with better access and awareness about health services through mobile apps, telemedicine, etc.

Interventions in Uttar Pradesh

The state of Uttar Pradesh has also adopted various e-Health initiatives in recent years, such as Hospital Management Information System (HMIS), ASHA Mobile Application, etc. It has recently initiated mSehat Scheme – a smartphone-based health service delivery support system for Frontline Workers to capture the complete RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Adolescent Healthcare) continuum of care services. It has provision of multimedia job-aid for beneficiary counseling, registration, tracking, reporting, screening and referral. Going ahead, mSehat aspires to interact with flagship e-Governance Schemes of the Government of India like Mother & Child Tracking System (MCTS) and RCH, which will help in real-time data update.

IT initiatives have helped in delivery and monitoring of services as well as bringing transparency. Delivery of high-end pathology services are being provided in district hospitals through outsourcing. IT has facilitated in implementation of the scheme. Citizens need not go to private hospitals for diagnostic tests. They can also get investigation reports from the internet. Cleaning & Gardening services provided by outsourced agencies are monitored through software. For monitoring the progress of accreditation of NABH hospitals, Quality Assurance Management Information System has been developed. This monitors different aspects including human resources, licenses, training, equipment, etc.

Bio-medical waste management in hospitals has significantly improved with the implementation of BMWMIS (Bio-Medical Waste Management Information System). Progress of Construction works in the Health Department is monitored centrally. Village & Health Nutrition Day monitoring is being done using App in the entire state. The data is available in electronic format that is suitable for analysis and decision making. Drug Procurement and Inventory Control System has been implemented up to District level. This has improved the availability of drugs & medicines in healthcare facilities.

Most of these applications have public view which can be accessed without any user-id/password. For augmentation and sustainability of IT systems in the Department, a Data Resource Cell has also been established in the Directorate of Medical & Health with different specialists.

Another innovative intervention has been Hausala Sajheedaari for engaging private sector healthcare providers in family planning service provisioning under government schemes. Under this, private hospitals, nursing homes, institutions or individuals can get accredited or empanelled with the government (through online applications) and provide Family Planning services under standard reimbursement package from the government. More than 1,200 hospitals have joined the initiative through transparent, web-based portal.

Conclusion

Initiatives such as these merit replication across the nation for a more cohesive and efficient healthcare delivery mechanism. To achieve the larger commitments of the nation towards Global Health Agenda, various stakeholders including the private healthcare sector, development agencies, civil society, key decision makers, and community-based organisations are working with public healthcare. In this convergence, technology can act as an enabler and offer a common platform for all stakeholders to work together towards building healthier communities and a developed nation.

The column originally appeared in Samvad Magazine (July-Sept 2016 issue)