It is imperative to overhaul India’s healthcare sector to provide quality and affordable healthcare services to its population of 1.3 billion. India requires a comprehensive digital platform that connects all healthcare service providers and facilitates seamless data flow without interruptions. The National Health Stack (NHS) – is a digital stack designed to do just that, and this article will provide some insights into its capabilities.
India’s healthcare industry faces a significant challenge due to its unorganized and siloed nature. Currently, healthcare service providers such as physicians, dentists, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, hospitals, pathology labs, insurance companies, and others operate independently, without proper coordination. This approach is causing numerous problems in society, and there is a pressing need for a more integrated and cohesive healthcare system.
Capturing and storing information digitally is a major challenge for service providers. While some providers are doing so, the data they collect is private and not available to the public. A system is needed to enter and store the patient information and later retrieve it for further processing in the future.
Let’s understand the problem a bit.
- Most physicians and pathology labs do not record patient information.
- Hospitals keep records but do not share them with outsiders.
- Insurance companies are unwilling to share their data with outsiders.
- Many more loopholes need holistic fixing
So, to fix the issues, three things are required
- A policy framework that mandates healthcare providers to maintain electronic health records.
- A policy framework that aims to provide affordable, high-quality medical care to most Indian citizens is required.
- A digital platform to make the above objectives happen.
National Health Stack
The government has come forward with a proposal to build a comprehensive healthcare stack called the National healthcare stack (NHS). The government’s National Digital Health BluePrint has mentioned about NHS. Before we got into NHS, we got to know about Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
Ayushman Bharat Yojana
The government in the year 2019 laid the foundation for Ayushman Bharat Yojana, a program designed to address health holistically through a two-pronged approach. They are as follows
- Health and Wellness Centres – Set up 1.5 Lakh Health and Wellness Centres to offer comprehensive primary healthcare services accessible to all.
- Pradhan Mantri-Rashtriya Swasthya Suraksha Mission (PM-RSSM) – Introduce PM-RSSM program to cover 10 Cr+ poor and vulnerable families with health insurance up to 5 L per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization
The PM-RSS Mission will play a key role in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Portability—which essentially translates into an environment where All people can obtain health services anywhere in the country without suffering financial hardship or high indirect costs. To meet the objective of giving quality healthcare to all, it is critically important to build a national digital infrastructure as an integral part of the program design to enable supply-side readiness. The infrastructure is called NHS.
The key components of the National Health Stack are as follows
- National Health Electronic Registries: This is to create a single source of truth for and manage the master health data of the nation. – Patient registry to store patients’ data.
- A Coverage and Claims platform: This is for building blocks to support large health protection schemes, enable horizontal and vertical expansion of RSSM by states, and robust fraud detection. – Insurance claims.
- A Federated Personal Health Records (PHR) Framework: This is to solve twin challenges of access to health data by patients and availability of health data for medical research, critical for advancing our understanding of human health. – Health records
- A National Health Analytics Platform: It brings a holistic view by combining information on multiple health initiatives and feeding it into smart policymaking, for instance, through improved predictive analytics. – Analytics tool
- Other horizontal Components: It includes unique Digital Health ID, Health Data Dictionaries, Supply Chain Management for Drugs, payment gateways, etc shared across all health programs. – Digital with other service providers
NHS will be the custodian of all Indian patients’ data
The National Health Stack is a platform that aims to collect comprehensive healthcare data from all over India. It is designed to leverage India Stack, a unique technology platform that allows the secure sharing of digital documents and data. By analyzing the data collected from NHS, policymakers will be able to experiment with policies, detect fraud in health insurance, measure outcomes, and make informed decisions. Furthermore, the platform will encourage market players such as NGOs, researchers, and watchdog organizations to innovate and build relevant services on top of it to fill the gaps in the healthcare system.
The NHS is designed to generate large amounts of secure, aggregated health data, putting India at the forefront of medical research.
National Health Stack Overview
The National Health Stack is designed to provide the foundational components that will be required to be accessed across Ayushman Bharat centers in India. The Health Stack is a nationally shared digital infrastructure usable by both Centre and State across public and private sectors. The Stack is designed to bring a holistic view of data across multiple health verticals and enable the rapid creation of diverse solutions in health.
The National Health Stack is a set of cloud-based services offered by service providers, each of which provides a specific capability across multiple health services. The above-said services can be easily accessed via simple open APIs compatible with global standards. When combined, they create a robust framework that can support any health initiative.
Scope of NHS
The scope of the National Health Stack includes (and is not restricted) the following subjects:
- Induction of Private Hospitals and Private Practitioners into the Primary and Secondary healthcare ecosystem;
- Focus on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD);
- Disease Surveillance;
- Health Schemes Management Systems;
- Nutrition Management;
- School Health Schemes;
- Emergency Management;
- e-Learning Platform for health,
- LMS, Telehealth,
- Diagnostic Equipment;
- Health Call Centre(s) etc.
NHS can seamlessly interface with the India stack to offer world-class healthcare services to 1.3 billion Indians.
Benefits of the National Health Stack
Improved Healthcare Access: The NHS aims to bridge the urban-rural healthcare divide by enabling remote consultations and the transfer of medical records, making quality healthcare accessible to even the most underserved areas.
Data-Driven Decision-Making: The extensive data collected through the NHS can be harnessed to make data-driven decisions on public health policy, resource allocation, and healthcare research.
Enhanced Patient Experience: Patients can enjoy greater control and convenience over their healthcare data, leading to more patient-centric care and improved healthcare outcomes.
Cost Efficiency: By reducing redundancy, errors, and administrative costs, the NHS has the potential to make healthcare delivery more cost-effective.
Healthcare Innovation: The availability of a standardized digital health ecosystem encourages innovation in healthcare applications and solutions, fostering a dynamic healthcare sector.
The National Health Stack of India represents a visionary approach to redefining the country’s healthcare system. It is an indication of India’s commitment to providing quality healthcare services to all citizens, regardless of their location or socio-economic background. While there are challenges to overcome, the potential benefits of the NHS are immense, promising a future where healthcare is more accessible, efficient, and patient-centric. With the right implementation, India’s National Health Stack could serve as a blueprint for healthcare transformation on a global scale. Visit the National Health Stack site to learn more about it