Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at the launch of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, through video conferencing, in New Delhi, on September 27, 2021. Image Credit: PTI

Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a programme that will create a unique digital health identity for over 1.3 billion people and allow them to access their records online, part of an effort to enhance efficiency in a healthcare system constrained by the pandemic.

The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, unveiled on Monday, aims to create digital health infrastructure to provide universal health coverage with unique health identification numbers for all citizens. This will allow citizens to link all their health records to this ID through a mobile application.

The launch comes amid concerns over privacy and growing surveillance in India, given there is no data protection law in the country and a panel of lawmakers are scrutinizing a bill. Critics have said the government is using the pandemic to make a case for digitizing health records.

“Today begins a Mission that has the power to bring a revolutionary change in India’s health facilities. Three years ago, on Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya’s birth anniversary, Ayushman Bharat Yojana was implemented. Happy that Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission is being started nationwide from today,” said Modi. The Prime Minister underlined that with 130 crore Aadhaar numbers, 118 crore mobile subscribers, about 80 crore Internet users and about 43 crore Jan Dhan bank accounts, there is no such big connected infrastructure anywhere in the world.

“This digital infrastructure is bringing everything from ration to administration (Ration to Prashasan) to the common Indian in a fast and transparent manner. The way technology is being deployed in governance reforms today is unprecedented,” the Prime Minister said.

‘Arogya Setu’ app

The Prime Minister pointed out that the ‘Arogya Setu’ app helped a lot in preventing the spread of corona infection. He lauded Co-WIN for its role in making India achieve a record administration of about 90 crore vaccine doses today, under the free vaccine campaign.

Continuing with the theme of the use of technology in health, the Prime Minister said that there has also been an unprecedented expansion of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic period. So far about 125 crore remote consultations have been completed through e-Sanjeevani.

“This facility is connecting thousands of countrymen living in far-flung parts of the country every day with doctors of big hospitals of cities while sitting at home,” he said.

The Prime Minister remarked that Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY has addressed a key headache in the lives of the poor and so far more than two crore countrymen have availed the facility of free treatment under this scheme, half of which are women.

The Prime Minister emphasized that diseases are one of the key reasons to push families into the vicious cycle of poverty and women of the families are the worst sufferers as they always relegate their health issues to the background.

Modi said that he has made it a point to personally meet some beneficiaries of Ayushman and has experienced the benefits of the scheme during the interactions.

“These healthcare solutions are a big investment in the present and future of the country,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that Ayushman Bharat - Digital Mission will now connect the digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other and the Mission will not only make the processes of hospitals simplified but also will increase ease of living.

Under this, every citizen will now get a digital health ID and their health record will be digitally protected.

The Prime Minister mentioned that India is working on a health model that is holistic and inclusive. “A model which stresses preventive healthcare and, in case of disease, easy, affordable and accessible treatment,” he said.

He also discussed unprecedented reforms in health education and said a much larger number of doctors and para medical manpower is being created in India now as compared to seven- eight years ago.

He further mentioned that a comprehensive network of AIIMS and other modern health institutions is being established in the country and work on establishing one medical college in every three Lok Sabha constituencies is going on.

He also talked about strengthening the health facilities in villages and informed that in the villages, primary health centre networks and wellness centres are being strengthened.

“More than 80,000 such centres have already been operationalised,” the Prime Minister said.

Referring to ‘World Tourism Day’ observed on Monday, the Prime Minister said that health has a very strong relationship with tourism because when our health infrastructure is integrated, strengthened, it also improves the tourism sector.