The National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) has been launched at a time when the country is reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in an opinion in The Indian Express, Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, writes that “The mission will go down in history as one of the game-changing policy initiatives launched in 21st-century India”.
“Based on the principles of health for all, inclusivity, accessibility, affordability, education, empowerment, wellness, portability, privacy and security by design, the NDHM will build the backbone necessary to create an integrated digital health infrastructure,” he states.
Some of its principal highlights are as follows.
First, “the NDHM is a voluntary scheme — HealthID is entirely voluntary for citizens,” he states. Citizens can choose to generate their Health Account or ID using their Aadhaar card or digitally authenticable mobile number and by using their basic address-related details and email ID. “The use of Aadhaar, therefore, is not mandatory,” he writes.
Second, providing access to and sharing of personal health records is a prerogative of the HealthID holder. The information can be shared for a period ranging from one hour to unlimited duration. The consent can be withdrawn anytime.
Third, NDHM has been built within a universe of fundamental rights and pieces of legislation such as the Aadhaar Act and the IT Act 2008 as well as the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. This citizen-centric project is also informed by the entire gamut of Supreme Court judgments and core democratic principles of cooperative federalism.
Fourth, he writes, “many members of the general public would ask: If this is a digital mission led by technology powered by the internet, how will it reach out to and empower the large number of “unconnected” masses? We have taken this reality into account and are building specialised systems and offline modules that will be designed to reach out to the ‘unconnected’, marginalised, digitally illiterate, remote, hilly, and tribal populations”.
Finally, the design of NDHM has been built on the principle of partnership with all key stakeholders — doctors, health service providers, technology solution providers and above all citizens.
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