Health E-Cards for Newborns Soon
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01 December 2009
It sounds rather futuristic, but if a plan being prepared by the Centre works out, every newborn will soon be the proud possessor of an electronic health card. An ambitious initiative by the Union health ministry promises to have the health data of every Indian, young and old, available at the click of a mouse.
TOI was told about the project–called the Indian Health Information Network Development or I–HIND–by Union minister of state for health Dinesh Trivedi during his visit to Mumbai on Monday on the eve of National AIDS Day. While Trivedi refused to give a time frame for the ambitious project, he said that the digital age health idea would begin with storing every neonate’s health details like date of birth, blood group and vaccination schedules. “If parents want a birth certificate, they only need to download it from the common health network instead of bribing some civic officials for a copy,” he said.
If this sounds similar to former Infosys chief Nandan Nilekani’s high–profile Unique ID plan, it’s because there is an overlap here. “The e–health project is being planned along with technocrat Sam Pitroda’s National Knowledge Commission as well as Nilekani,” Trivedi told TOI.
The idea was discussed at a meeting of the working group on health innovation at the health ministry on November 28. The draft plan will be submitted by March 5, 2010.
“I have told Nilekani that he has to bother only about digitising records for those already around, and my ministry will help out with tracking newborns,” Trivedi said. The Saturday meeting identified four projects: setting up I–HIND, emergency medical services, a health portal and health literacy programme.
The potential of I–HIND is immense. “We can have a tracking system for various diseases such as HIV as well,” the health minister said. At present many HIV–positive women are lost to the system when they go to their ‘Native place’ for delivery. “But if women have an e–health record, it would be easier for doctors to treat them and for the system to take care of them and their children.”
The ministry also plans to bring about a standardisation of services and treatment. “At present, getting a stent to treat a heart blockage can cost between Rs 2 lakh and 20 lakh depending on the doctor, the hospital and the city involved. But if information about diseases and their treatment is put out by the government, there would be a ready acceptance and hence standardisation,” Trivedi said.
Incidentally, the United States–which recently approved an ambitious overhaul of its healthcare system–is also on the verge of embarking on a digitisation of every American’s health records. Trivedi, with an engaging lack of modesty, says he will ensure that I–HIND is superior.