“Digital solutions hold the capacity to revolutionize the healthcare delivery systems. Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India aims to launch a global initiative on digital health as an institutional framework. This framework aims to converge the global efforts for digital health and scale up digital solutions with use of cutting-edge technologies. It is time to move from ‘Silos to Systems’ with collaboration of all countries for enhanced coverage and quality of healthcare services.” This was stated by Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare as he virtually addressed the “Global Conference on Digital Health – Taking Universal Health Coverage to the Last Citizen” a co-branded event under India’s G20 Presidency organised by WHO – South-East Asia Region in collaboration with Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
Highlighting the importance of digital health, Dr. Mandaviya stated “Digital health is a great enabler in delivery of healthcare services and has the potential to support overall universal health coverage targets.” He further added that national health policies proved instrumental for various path-breaking digital health intervention ensuring availability, accessibility and affordability, and equity of health services.
Dr. Mandaviya elaborated that through this initiative, “we are building consensus on promotion of digital public goods as a key enabler in achieving universal health coverage targets through customization and democratization of technologies.”
Addressing the challenges in universalization of digital health and enabling of equitable access to healthcare services across the world, particularly for low- and middle-income countries, the Health Minister added that “Aligned with the ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, India provided Co-Win, E-sanjeevani, and Aarogya Setu applications as digital public goods exemplifying our commitment to global health and our role in driving equitable access to critical health solutions”.
Reiterating India’s commitment towards Universal Health Coverage, the Health Minister cited digital interventions have become the foundations of many crucial health programs such as reproductive child healthcare, Ni-kshay, TB control program, integrated disease surveillance system, hospital information system among many others. He further added that India’s adoption of digital health as a critical intervention from the onset of the pandemic became a defining juncture as it enabled healthcare services to a wide range of services with ease, reaching the innermost regions of the nation. Citing the examples of e-Sanjeevni, a tele-consultation platform which has crossed 100 million teleconsultations, the vaccine management drive achieving administration of more than 2.2 billion doses, and of Prime Minister Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) that provides health insurance to 500 million citizens free of cost in a cashless and paperless manner, Dr. Mandaviya emphasized that “implementation of digital technology has forever changed the dynamics of healthcare delivery”.
“While Governments around the world are already making significant investments to leverage technology successfully to improve health outcomes, there is still a long way to go in order to achieve sustainable and scalable outcomes. India accordingly under its G20 Presidency has prioritized Digital Health as a specific priority in its Health Working Group namely- “Digital Health Innovation and Solutions to aid UHC and improve Healthcare Service Delivery”. It aims to align, support, and converge efforts, investments and promotes the concept of digital public health goods to aid Universal Health Coverage”, he further added.
Union Health Secretary, Rajesh Bhushan explained various digital health solutions, which India has adopted during the pandemic – Aarogya Setu, E-Sanjeevani, iGot Digital platform and Co-WIN. He noted that digital health with its transforming potential can not only improve service delivery but can also help continuity of care across primary, secondary and tertiary levels through creation of longitudinal electronic health record of the citizens. “Digital Health interventions are supporting the acceleration of health transformation and have a huge potential for supporting Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The effective implementation of digital technologies in health can support in terms of establishing efficient, well-functioning health systems, and empowering patients”, he added.
Accentuating the role of India in leading Global Digital Health Agenda, Lav Aggarwal, Additional Secretary informed that India introduced World Health Assembly Resolution on Digital Health at its 71st session in Geneva which was successfully adopted by countries and spurred global action on the agenda of digital health. Post creation of a Department of Digital Health & Innovation at WHO, a Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-25 in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has also been developed, he informed.
Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEARO applauded India’s E-Sanjeevani, digital health solution which helped more than 100 million teleconsultations. She said that digital health solutions ensure democratisation of health services & innovations with specific focus on low and low-middle income countries (LMICs). She also suggested to establish digital health infrastructure, build on institutional platform and citizen-driven digital health ecosystem.
Professor Alain Labrique, Director, Digital Health and Innovation, WHO focused on the need of people centered digital solution taking care of equity and inclusion for marginalized community and digital divide.
The global leaders and health development partners, health policy makers, digital health innovators and influencers, academia and other stakeholders from around the world were also present at the conference.