Aug 17, 2020

India launches digital health IDs

digital health records
health ID
India
digital healthcare
Leila Hawkins
2 min
India launches digital health IDs
The National Digital Health Mission will see the country’s healthcare sector undergoing a digital transformation...

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), an ambitious project that's been two years in the making. 

During a speech on India's 74th Independence Day on August 15, Modi said that the NDHM will "revolutionise" the country’s healthcare. "Whether it is making a doctor's appointment, depositing money or running around for documents in the hospital, the mission will help remove all such challenges" he said. 

The aim of the NDHM is to provide everyone in India with a unique national health ID that contains all their health records in a digital format. It will contain details of illnesses, treatments, hospital stays and discharges, along with any tests the person has had since birth to the present day. Both users and healthcare professionals will be able to view these records. 

Although it is not compulsory, the government is hoping the scheme will attract a large proportion of India's 1.35 billion population. Those who don't wish to sign up will not be excluded from receiving treatment however. 

The idea for a health ID was first floated in 2017, when the government proposed creating a digital health system that would integrate information for citizens and stakeholders across private and public healthcare providers. It is expected that hospitals, online pharmacies, telemedicine firms, laboratories and insurance companies will take part in the new system. 

Additionally it is hoped the digital health ID will reduce preventable errors and improve quality of care, while making it possible for users to easily view their own medical records. 

The ID will be generated using a person's mobile number and address. All that person's medical data will then be stored onto their ID, which will reportedly be accessed via a mobile app. 

The government has issued assurances that personal data will be protected, and will only be shared with medical professionals once the user has given their consent, who remains the owner of the records. 

While the initiative has been widely welcomed, experts have emphasised that the privacy of people’s health data is vital. Measures to safeguard this include blockchain technology to ensure records are encrypted, consent when accessing and storing records, anonymising personal data and ensuring data stored in the cloud is secure from hackers. 

The NDHM will be piloted in several states before being rolled out nationwide. 

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Jun 23, 2021

NHSX releases new data plans, experts call for transparency

medicalrecords
patientdata
NHS
privacy
3 min
NHSX has published a new strategy for patient data sharing, with experts calling for transparency

Patients in England will get "greater control" over their health and care data according to new proposals set out by the government. 

In a new draft strategy called "Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data", Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says that more effective use of data will deliver better patient-focused care. "This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position." 

Under the new plans people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the health system through different applications, to access test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans. 

The strategy, published by NHSX, the government department that sets policies for the use of technology within the NHS, follows delays to the creation of a central database of patient records amid concerns over data sharing and a lack of transparency, with critics saying that only a small proportion of the public were made aware of the plans and the choice to opt out. 

Kevin Curran,  senior member of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Ulster, says that moving health records online raises concerns. "The move to an online app does seem like a natural progression, however there is a difference between having computerised records within our healthcare IT infrastructure and having those records reside on a public facing server. 

"Having records inhouse limits the range and type of access – it's far more difficult for remote hackers" Curran said. "There are techniques that healthcare organisations can use to reduce the risk of future data breaches. One way is to make it ‘opt in’, so patients have the choice to decide whether their medical information is moved to a public facing service so that they can access it. 

"However, those who do not opt in or download the app instead should have their records hosted in a non-public-facing cloud service. This way, if a data breach does occur, those who never used the app, or not wanted to, will not have had their details released." 

The new strategy has been welcomed by some, with an emphasis on the need for transparency.  Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: "Health data has played a critical role in the last year – from tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and developing treatments, to getting people booked in for their vaccines. It is critical that the use of data is accelerated if the NHS is to tackle the backlog of care and address the massive health challenges facing the country. 

"It is particularly positive that the government has committed to building analytical and data science capability in the NHS and to improving data on social care. To ensure the full potential of data can be realised, the government must ensure transparency on how it will be used and the rights and options people have, as well as engaging with the public and health care professionals to build trust and show people how their data can improve the NHS and save lives." 

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