• Vipul Swarup

National Digital Health ID & its Implications for Small Medical Practices

On August 15, 2020, the Prime Minister of India announced the creation of a National Digital Health ID, which will take India's healthcare delivery into the future and put wellness firmly in the hands of citizens. Till date, over 100,000 citizens in 6 Union Territories have already registered for their Digital Health IDs. I was myself one of the early registrants - Figure 1 shows a blurred out version of the ID that I got over email. Notice the photo - automatically pulled from my Aadhaar Card.

Figure 1 - Digital Health ID Card

This is a huge step and will put individually in-charge of their health records, insurance claims and wellness in general. This will allow the maintenance of a full longitudinal health record for Indian residents. Patients will be able to access their records (from womb to tomb) and the records of their family members from anywhere, using a smartphone. Further, doctors will be able to see much richer information on the medical history of their patients, enabling much better informed decisions.

The government's plan includes creating a central registry of doctors and healthcare facilities. Doctor's certificates and degrees will eventually be linked to university and college databases for electronic verification. This will further empower the patients and allow them to find the right doctor, hospital and lab for themselves.

Large Hospital Chains, Insurance Companies and Lab Chains are already well placed to take advantage of the infrastructure the government is developing, because they have mature electronic medical record systems in place. But what should owners of single-location nursing homes and independent medical practitioners do to ensure they are well prepared for when the National Digital Health ID is rolled out nationwide?

Key implications for Doctors and Hospital Owners are:

- Digital Note Taking: They will have to start taking notes in digital form. These notes will be stored in a digital health record system against the patient's health ID.

- Access to Patient's Record: They will have to adopt a system that pulls/pushes patients' digital record from personal health record storage services (including DigiLocker) using the patient's Health ID.

- Electronic Insurance Claims: Cashless insurance claims have traditionally been ridden with bureaucracy and onerous paperwork. This has led many doctors to move away from cashless processes. But cashless claims that are processed entirely online will become a central part of the Digital Health Infrastructure and these will necessarily become easier to process and use.

- Tele Consultations: Tele Consultation apps like Swasth, Practo etc. are becoming very popular, given the Covid-19 situation, as patients and doctors alike are avoiding face-to-face consultations. These apps will be very quick to adapt to the National Digital Health Infrastructure. In fact, some of these are early adopters and driving forces behind the NDHM. It is essential that all Doctors and Nursing Homes adapt quickly to the digital changes so that they can remain ahead of the curve and compete effectively with the telemedicine platforms.

So the question arises, how does one prepare and stay ahead of the curve?

- Digitize Patient Records: Many doctors and hospitals currently store patients' discharge summaries, care sheets and lab reports in physical files. They often give the originals to patients (for insurance claims) and keep photocopies themselves. Now is the best time to have all these documents scanned and stored digitally. This is an inexpensive process and will allow you to have a quick view of all your patient records. You can also save precious real estate by keeping scan copies and handing originals over to patients.

- Document Management System (DMS) or EMR System: Invest in a cloud-based Document Management System (disclosure: EisenVault is our parent company) or an Electronic Medical Record system. Ensure that the system is cloud based, so that you can access patient records easily from anywhere AND allow your patients to view their records as well. Scanned documents will be stored in these systems. Go for a system that allows you to subscribe on an annual subscription, rather than an on-site system where you are asked to pay a large sum upfront. Cloud systems will also remove the need for you to hire an IT person to manage the system.

- Ensure that the DMS or EMR has a good roadmap: You must ensure that the Document Management or Medical Record system that you pick has features that make it amenable for them to easily integrate with NDHM Infrastructure in future. This includes ability to store patient records against a mobile number or aadhaar number, commitment to providing patients portability of data (the architecture should be based on open standards), they should have an explicit commitment to work with NDHM in the coming months.

We at ArogyaVault are experts in Cloud Based Medical Records and in Electronic Document Management. Contact us today to chat about this. You can email us: or Whatsapp us: +91-9720195603 .

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