The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), the country's integrated digital health infrastructure, is improving healthcare administration by enabling information sharing and tracking referrals, resulting in a more connected and efficient healthcare system
In an exclusive conversation with ET Edge Insights, Vishal Chavan, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, delves into the intricacies of healthcare. Chavan discusses a wide range of topics, from healthcare infrastructure and manpower to the transformative impact of technology in the sector and shares his perspectives on the present and future of healthcare in India.
Ensuring affordable and quality healthcare for all, especially the underprivileged, is a global concern. What steps are governments taking to address this issue?
The best form of healthcare is at the primary healthcare level. To promote primary healthcare, the government has introduced the ‘Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres’ scheme, establishing 160,000 such centres in remote areas. These centres offer 14 diagnostic tests and provide 63 types of drugs on-site. They also enable teleconsultations with specialists through the E-Sanjeevani platform. Additionally, they emphasise preventive healthcare and lifestyle modifications. The ‘Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’ provides a health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs to 60 crore citizens, aiming to make healthcare accessible and affordable. This has significantly reduced citizens’ out-of-pocket expenses from 63% to 47%.
How do you assess our nation’s healthcare infrastructure and its future trends?
In the past 8-9 years, there has been significant progress in our healthcare infrastructure. The number of medical colleges has doubled, from 50,000 to one lakh undergraduate seats and from 30,000 to more than 65,000 postgraduate seats annually. This expansion in medical education has increased the availability of doctors. Additionally, the government plans to establish 157 new nursing colleges, which will enhance nursing manpower and provide opportunities abroad. To address critical care needs, the Health Infrastructure Mission includes the ‘PM Abhim scheme,’ ensuring that every district has a critical care block. These blocks will serve as both infectious disease hospitals during emergencies like COVID-19 and as critical care centres for various health emergencies during normal times. These efforts reflect a commitment to strengthening healthcare infrastructure across the nation.
Finally, how do you integrate technology with our healthcare workforce to enhance the healthcare sector’s capabilities?
The ‘Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission’ (ABDM) introduces a unique Ayushman Bharat Health account for every citizen, facilitating comprehensive patient tracking. This digital ecosystem includes registrations of health professionals and facilities, fostering integration among various health portals. It enhances healthcare management by enabling information sharing and tracking referrals, ensuring a more connected and efficient healthcare system. Through the ABDM system, the portals will be talking to each other. Furthermore, artificial intelligence plays a pivotal role in healthcare. It aids in TB and cancer detection, as well as fraud prevention. These technological advancements represent significant strides in the digital health field, promising improved healthcare outcomes and efficiency.