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A decade from now, are health records as easily kept and available as on social media ?, Health News, ET HealthWorld


From Anurag Khosla

India is proving to be a major player in the digital economy. Both the volume and growth of India’s digital economy today outperform most other developing countries in a variety of metrics, from internet connections, smartphone users to app downloads.

But what does this increasing connectivity and digital revolution mean for the Indian healthcare system? Will health records be as easily accessible as they are on social media in a decade?

The Indian healthcare system follows a diverse and complex structure – patient care is mainly provided by the Primary Healthcare Center (PHC), the Secondary Healthcare Center (SHC) and the Tertiary Healthcare Center (THC); largely administered by the central and state government.

Enormous amounts of data are generated at each point of care every time the patient visits the facility for diagnosis and treatment. Since most of the records are on paper, it is a challenge for patients to take their medical reports to every hospital they visit. The physical documentation not only takes time to record, it also makes it difficult to exchange patient data in real time.

The digitization of health records and their immediate availability in the form of electronic files everywhere has not yet been fully implemented in developing countries such as India. It is a great challenge to collect, process and store and manage this data without compromising security and privacy.

Currently, some of the secondary and tertiary care institutions have started to implement healthcare IT solutions through the hospital information system, electronic medical record (EMR), etc. to manage patient data in electronic format. However, these systems are designed and managed in silos so that patient data remains in the same hospital and cannot be shared with other hospitals when the patient moves from one hospital to another for advanced or specialized treatment. This is because the data is not interoperable and semantic.

With the “Digital Health Mission” of the Indian government, there have been many advances in health tech. This led to newer methods of maintaining patient data in digital form – the electronic health record (EHR) is one such solution to support the healthcare facility. The need of the hour in healthcare is to use interoperability and standardization techniques to enable easy sharing and sharing of health data between the different levels.

With the EHR, it is possible to collect and store various health data from patients and make them accessible at the point-of-care, including PHC, SHC and THC. EHR contains health history information, laboratory test reports, and diagnostic images that are stored in a digital format available to healthcare providers over a computer network. Compared to the EMR, the EHR has a more comprehensive report on the general health of the patient. With EHR, the health care provider can access information from various clinical encounters in chronological order and provide high quality healthcare.

India should ensure that the system is easy to learn and use, and combine implementation with appropriate training and incentives for adoption. EHR systems should be designed with government standards in mind and be flexible enough to effectively cleanse and analyze data in order to gain insights.

But the big challenge will be maintaining the confidentiality and security of the data. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) defines data protection rules for access to the health information system and specifies the security measures, including administrative, physical and technical protective measures. According to the law on the protection of personal data, sensitive personal data may only be processed with the express consent of the person and prevent access by the other organization without the required consent.

Digital technologies could change the structure of the healthcare industry. Sector boundaries become blurred when established companies take on new roles in partnership with, or in contrast to, novel start-ups. In contrast to the existing standard, where providers of each service – insurance, primary care, pharmaceuticals and hospitals – work separately with consumers, the new model will promote the integrated, seamless delivery of personalized health solutions. Another result of digital technologies will be to enable patient-centered care throughout the treatment cycle, starting with the pre-diagnosis.

Such digitally controlled changes can save time, accelerate diagnosis and treatment, and simplify the treatment of chronic diseases at every step. While these technologies can offer some discreet value on their own, using them together has the potential to reshape the way patients experience the healthcare system.

In a decade, digital health records will be the new normal, but the same thing cannot and should not be accessed as easily as on social media. Control should be with the person to make their health data available at any time or to whomever they deem necessary.

By Anurag Khosla, CEO of vHealth By Aetna India.

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are exclusive to the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to them. ETHealthworld.com is not responsible for any damage caused directly or indirectly to any person / organization.)


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