India’s Digital Health Mission aims to track and store your health data using UPI-like apps

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India’s Digital Health Mission aims to track and store your health data using UPI-like apps
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  • The Ayushman Bharat Digital Scheme aims to provide an integrated database to all stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem.
  • It is looking to collect information using a host of apps to allow interoperability between key players in the sector.
  • The chief of the National Health Authority compared the system to Unified Payment Interface.
The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 27 to provide integrated health information on a single digital platform. For the mission, the system is looking to collect data from a host of apps into its database and focusing on interoperability between key players in the sector.

In an interview with NDTV, RS Sharma, the chief of the National Health Authority and CoWIN, explained the working of the new digital system and how it is looking to create a database with health data of patients on a single platform. While the system may aim to bridge the gap between various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem, it will have access to sensitive data of citizens.

He said that the broad objective of the mission is to make health services affordable, accessible and inclusive. "The system will be interoperable. Currently, we do have digital systems, but they are all in silos, whether it is any medical delivery system, pharmacy system. But this is going to make them all interoperable," RS Sharma added.

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Although it enables services like online consultation with doctors, it might expose patients' health records to private partners which may add a potential risk of data being used for targeted advertising by service providers. But it’s still too early to counter these factors in as the details about where the database will be stored, who will have access to it and how will it be used are still scarce.

As per the report, RS Sharma explained the new digital mission by calling it a Unified Health Interface and drawing similarities with Unified Payment Interface (UPI). "For example, you use Ola app to book Ola vehicles, and Uber to book Uber taxis. But think of a situation where you have Ola app and can book any taxi on any platform. That's the interoperability this system is going to bring, and that is why we are calling it Unified Health Interface, similar to Unified Payment Interface, which means any patient-facing app can connect with the system," he said.

There will be no limits on the number of apps that can be synced with the system to collect the health data of the patient. The chief of the National Health Authority also added that startups can “plug into the system, access data and make patient-facing apps”. While it clearly explains how startups can access the data to create applications, it does not tell us if users will have consented before their data is shared.

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As per its claims, the digital mission is looking to bridge the gap between various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem through digital means. It is expected to help the citizens get better access to healthcare services in the country. The databases it is looking to maintain include that of healthcare facilities, healthcare professionals and individual health data.

While this initiative may have the potential to strengthen the healthcare sector, if not secure, it could put the data of millions of citizens at risk.

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