With over 1 crore OPD registration tokens generated through ABHA-based Scan and Share, the National Health Authority (NHA) has crossed a major milestone in a year of the implementation of the service. The paperless service allows patients to scan the QR Codes placed at the Out-Patient Department (OPD) registration counter and share their ABHA profile for instant registration.
Launched in October 2022 under Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), ABHA-based Scan and Share service aims to manage the queues at patient registration counters and offer better service experience to the patients. It has seen rapid adoption and is currently active in more than 2,600 health facilities across 419 districts in 33 States and Union Territories of India.
Highlighting the aim of ABDM to add ease and efficiency of healthcare delivery, RS Sharma, CEO, NHA said,“It is our endeavor to leverage technology to assist old patients, pregnant ladies and other citizens when they access healthcare services. The ABHA-based registrations would also help the patients with digital access to their digital prescriptions, pharmacy slips and diagnostic reports.”
According to the statistics from ABDM Public Dashboard, maximum usage of Scan and Share is at the AIIMS in the cities of Delhi, Bhopal and Raipur. Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu & Kashmir emerge as the top performing states/UTs in implementation of this digital OPD registration service with Nine out of the top 15 hospitals from Uttar Pradesh.
Healthcare for all
Access to healthcare is one of the most critical challenges being faced by the country. According to Economic Survey 2021-22, India has one of the highest levels of Out of Pocket Expenditure (OOPE) in the world, contributing directly to high incidence of catastrophic expenditures and poverty. National Health Policy of 2017 envisages that an increase in government spending in health from 1% to 2.5% of GDP can decrease the OOPE from 65% to 30% of overall healthcare spend.
Launched in 2028, the government’s marquee scheme Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PMJAY) aims to provide healthcare access to the most vulnerable sections of the population. As the world’s largest health insurance scheme, AB PMJAY aims to minimise the OOPE of the target beneficiaries arising due to expenditure on healthcare. The scheme provides health cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to over 10.7 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) that form the bottom 40% of the population.
Economic Survey 2022-23 states that the share of government expenditure on health has increased from 28.6% in FY14 to 40.6% in FY19. With this, there has been a concomitant decline in OOPE as a percentage of total health expenditure from 64.2% in FY14 to 48.2% in FY19.
Leveraging technology for improving healthcare access
To strengthen the penetration and equity of health services, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) was launched in 2021. By leveraging technology, ABDM is developing an integrated health infrastructure for the country with a secure online platform based on open, interoperable digital standards.
ABDM will enable access and exchange of health records of citizens with their consent through services such as the issuance of Health ID, Healthcare Professionals Registry, Health Facility Registry and Health Records. As on 11 October 2023, more than 47 crore Ayushman Bharat Health Accounts (ABHAs), earlier known as Health ID, have been created with over 31 crore health records linked. The number of Verified facilities on health facility registry has grown to 2,20,847 with 2,33,436 verified healthcare professionals on healthcare professional registry.
ABHA-based Scan and Share service can be availed using apps including Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA), Aarogya Setu, EkaCare, DRiefcase, Bajaj Health and Paytm. These partner platforms ensure greater reach of digital health services.
Government also launched eSanjeevani to further expand digital health services to the remotest parts of the country. An innovative, indigenous, cost-effective, and integrated cloud-based telemedicine system, eSanjeevani app enables teleconsultation to ensure a continuum of care and facilitate health services to all. As on 11 October 2023, more than 16 core patients have been served. At present, eSanjeevani is operational in all states and UTs across India. eSanjeevani – National Telemedicine Service of India has evolved into the world’s largest outpatient services system
Healthtech helps bridge digital health divide
Startups are playing a growing role in ushering a transformational shift in the healthtech sector. According to a study by EY-IPA, telemedicine market is expected to reach a size of $5.5 billion by 2025. With platforms like Lybrate and Practo, appointments can be easily booked and doctors can also be consulted from anywhere in the country. Online pharmacies further empower people to get their medicines delivered to the doorstep. Apart from the growth of telemedicine and teleconsultation, even lab tests can now be conducted at home.
With the growth of cloud computing, IoT, AI and robotics combined with digitisation of health records, and data mining, accuracy and an improvement in patient outcomes can be seen facilitating a right diagnosis and treatment plan. Technology can also help bridge the gap between the number of healthcare professionals and a growing population. Healthtech startup apps have also contributed to generating better awareness among people about lifestyle changes that can help reduce the disease burden in the country.
But with this growth of digital health services, some challenges remain. One of the biggest concerns is that low levels of digital literacy among people, especially in rural areas and among women, is hindering the widespread adoption of health services. The growth of digital health services is also skewed with states in the south seeing a greater increase than other states.
Privacy of individuals has also been flagged with a report from 2022 quoting an official who said,“Data privacy has emerged as a concern particularly in the healthcare sector. The digitization of health records has led to an increased risk of data breaches and cyber-attack.” The official added, “Hence, the digital health ecosystem conceived under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) gives highest priority to the protection of personal health records. We are working to use anonymization techniques to remove personal identifying information before using the health data for public health research, policy making, disease surveillance etc. Anonymisation of data will ensure that the privacy of the individual is protected.”