New Delhi: Digital solutions hold the capacity to revolutionise the healthcare delivery systems. India aims to launch a global initiative on digital health as an institutional framework. This framework aims to converge the global efforts for digital health and scale up digital solutions with the use of cutting-edge technologies. It is time to move from ‘Silos to Systems’ with the collaboration of all countries for enhanced coverage and quality of healthcare services, shared Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare as he virtually addressed the ‘Global Conference on Digital Health – Taking Universal Health Coverage to the Last Citizen’ a co-branded event under India’s G20 Presidency organised by WHO – South-East Asia Region in collaboration with Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
Highlighting the importance of digital health, Dr Mandaviya stated, “Digital health is a great enabler in the delivery of healthcare services and has the potential to support overall universal health coverage (UHC) targets.” He further added that national health policies proved instrumental for various path-breaking digital health interventions ensuring the availability, accessibility and affordability, and equity of health services.
Dr Mandaviya elaborated that through this initiative, “We are building consensus on the promotion of digital public goods as a key enabler in achieving universal health coverage targets through customisation and democratisation of technologies.”
Addressing the challenges in the universalisation of digital health and enabling equitable access to healthcare services across the world, particularly for low- and middle-income countries, the Health Minister added, “Aligned with the ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, India provided Co-Win, e-sanjeevani, and Aarogya Setu applications as digital public goods exemplifying our commitment to global health and our role in driving equitable access to critical health solutions.”
Reiterating India’s commitment towards universal health coverage, the Health Minister cited digital interventions have become the foundations of many crucial health programmes such as reproductive child healthcare, Ni-kshay, TB control programme, integrated disease surveillance systems, and hospital information systems among many others. He further added that India’s adoption of digital health as a critical intervention from the onset of the pandemic became a defining juncture as it enabled healthcare services to a wide range of services with ease, reaching the innermost regions of the nation. Citing the examples of e-Sanjeevni, a teleconsultation platform which has crossed 100 million teleconsultations, the vaccine management drive achieving administration of more than 2.2 billion doses, and Prime Minister Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) that provides health insurance to 500 million citizens free of cost in a cashless and paperless manner, Dr Mandaviya emphasised, “Implementation of digital technology has forever changed the dynamics of healthcare delivery.”
“While governments around the world are already making significant investments to leverage technology successfully to improve health outcomes, there is still a long way to go in order to achieve sustainable and scalable outcomes. India accordingly under its G20 Presidency has prioritised Digital Health as a specific priority in its Health Working Group namely- “Digital Health Innovation and Solutions to aid UHC and improve Healthcare Service Delivery”. It aims to align, support, and converge efforts, investments and promotes the concept of digital public health goods to aid Universal Health Coverage”, he further added.
Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, explained various digital health solutions, which India has adopted during the pandemic – Aarogya Setu, e-Sanjeevani, iGot Digital platform and Co-WIN. He noted that digital health with its transforming potential can not only improve service delivery but can also help continuity of care across primary, secondary and tertiary levels through the creation of longitudinal electronic health records of the citizens. “Digital Health interventions are supporting the acceleration of health transformation and have a huge potential for supporting universal health coverage. The effective implementation of digital technologies in health can support in terms of establishing efficient, well-functioning health systems, and empowering patients,” he added.
Accentuating the role of India in leading the Global Digital Health Agenda, Lav Aggarwal, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed that India introduced World Health Assembly Resolution on Digital Health at its 71st session in Geneva which was successfully adopted by countries and spurred global action on the agenda of digital health. Post creation of a Department of Digital Health & Innovation at WHO, a Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-25 in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has also been developed, he informed.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEARO applauded India’s e-Sanjeevani, a digital health solution which helped more than 100 million teleconsultations. She said that digital health solutions ensure the democratisation of health services & innovations with a specific focus on low and low-middle-income countries (LMICs). She also suggested establishing digital health infrastructure, building on institutional platforms and a citizen-driven digital health ecosystem.
Professor Alain Labrique, Director, Digital Health and Innovation, WHO focused on the need for people-centred digital solutions taking care of equity and inclusion for marginalised communities and the digital divide.
Global leaders and health development partners, health policymakers, digital health innovators and influencers, academia and other stakeholders from around the world were also present at the conference.