Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated the post Union Budget webinar of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. He highlighted India’s strength in universal primary healthcare, harnessing technology for providing equitable healthcare, need for vibrant Public Private partnerships for innovative healthcare solutions and integrating healthcare providers and consumers through smart platforms for providing easily accessible, affordable quality healthcare to all. The valedictory address was delivered by Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare in presence of Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, AYUSH minister and Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar, MOS (HFW), Dr V.K. Paul (NITI Aayog), and Dr MahendraMunjapara, MOS (AYUSH).
This is fifth webinar in a series of post budget webinars addressed by Prime Minister. Union Ministers, healthcare professionals from public and private sectors, and professionals from para-medics, nursing, health management, technology and research participated in the webinar.The objective of the webinar was to involve the stakeholders in taking forward the various initiatives of the Government in the health sector.
In his valedictory address, Union Health Minister noted that vision of the Prime Minister for a holistic healthcare has guided the integration of various healthcare platforms. “Today’s brainstorming sessions with all stakeholders will help to create a well defined blueprint for timely action for citizen-centric policies and output-based programmes”, he stated.The consultation with private sector, non-government organizations including experts and health sector stakeholders through deep-discussions is a step in enriching the policies, initiatives and actions of the Ministry, he stated. “India is strongly poised to implement the framework of “Total Health and One Health” through its focused, integrative and holistic policies”, he added. Ayurveda and Mental Health form a vital part of Total Health and should be extended through telemedicine services.
With the new approach to early Union Budget presentation, the funds allocation and programme implementation can now be started in a much timely manner leading to timely spending of allocated funds don’t lapse due to untimely planning, he stressed.Reforms in timely manner have ensured that India is not left behind on the global platform. “Our strategic policies of vaccine research and manufacturing are in sync with the emerging developments globally”, he noted.
Highlighting the role of technology and Research and Development, Dr. Mansukh Madaviya said that today India is at par with global leaders in vaccine research due to focus on indigenization.He added that telemedicine and Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission will rightly propel India towards a revolution in the health care sector.Teleconsultation is a revolution and it is providing expert health care services even in the remotest of the areas.Today, India is the leading country in the world to have created more than 17 Crore Health IDs in India, highest globally, Dr Mandaviya stated.
The webinar had breakout sessions on the following three themes:
- Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), moderated byDr. V K Paul, Member, NITI Aayog.
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary underlined the fact that ABDM should not be seen as a standalone digital platform but an enabler that will create an ecosystem which will link multifarious existing digital platforms, with the aim to provide quality healthcare services.
The participants highlighted the importance of integrated, quality, easily accessible healthcare solutions through digital healthcare. ABDM was found important for empowering health consumers by giving them control over healthcare choices and making healthcare more equitable. Some speakers termed ABDM as a “game-changer”. Its importance in setting minimum standards for a largely fragmented healthcare landscape in the country was found paramount as it will reduce the volatility of service providers and services.
The eminent speakers also highlighted that ABDM has the potential to reshape India’s healthcare in the post-pandemic era. It can expand the provision of universal healthcare through purposive and strategic linked partnerships between diagnostic labs, pharmacists, hospitals, etc., across the public-private divide. It was noted that ABDM can also encourage innovation and research through smart start-ups and healthcare incubators. With digital platforms connecting multifarious partners, our reach in global healthcare providers and healthcare consumers will substantially increase, giving impetus to medical value tourism.Some speakers also highlighted the importance of instant gratification for the consumer to see all medical and healthcare records through automated document aggregation on one platform.
Dr R S Sharma, CEO NHA allayed fears and apprehensions regardingprivacy and safety of healthcare data stating that consumer data and identity are protected through clearly defined protocols. Terming ABDM as a “win-win” platform for both healthcare providers and consumers, he highlighted the feature of Unified Health Interface for linking healthcare solutions of various kinds of systems through well-defined APIs which accommodate various languages.
- National Tele-Medicine initiatives and E-Sanjeevani, moderated by Prof. K Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI.
A presentation on leveraging the technology of eSanjeevani towards ensuring the goal of “accessible, affordable and equitable healthcare for all” was made by Shri Lav Agarwal, JS, Health Ministry, wherein stakeholders were apprised of the ways and means of augmenting eSanjeevani as the National Telemedicine Platform. He briefed the participants that 2.68 crore consultations have been recorded so far in the eSanjeevani platform and it is a global achievement when compared with the other countries.
The participants highlighted the importance of telemedicine and eSanjeevani initiative of the government in providing affordable, equitable and accessible health care to all. It was noted that e-Sanjeevani has brought in a revolution in the health sector and is rapidly bridging the digital divide in the health sector as envisioned by the Prime Minister. The speakers appreciated how eSanjeevani has led to massive improvement in access to specialised health services, particularly in the rural and remote areas. This service has been a boon for the patients in urban areas as well, especially during the second surge of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that burdened the healthcare services delivery system in the country. Some speakers highlighted that Covid-19 has given a huge impetus to the adoption of telemedicine in the country, thereby increasing the footprint of digital health services. A consensus was built that innovative use of technology in the health sector has a huge potential to transform the health care paradigm and eSanjeevani will propel the growth of the sector.
Some speakers noted that eSanjeevani can be integrated with other associated specialties to increase access and availability in the community. Its services can be extended to vulnerable sections of the population like inmates in jail, old age homes. Innovative implementation solutions for e-ICU and remote healthcare monitoring are also envisaged through the platform. The platform can also act as a tele-mentoring platform for doctors for CMEs and for paramedics and other staff through a content management system (CMS). Experts suggested that eSanjeevani can be the gateway for all digital platforms, with integration of cutting-edge technology, AI-enabled chatbots. It can support tele-follow-ups and referrals along with support for veterinary services. Experts also discussed that solutions need to be explored for connectivity issues in remote areas though innovative Public Private Partnership (PPP) models to ensure quality service delivery to our citizens. Taking a holistic approach, various platforms of other ministries like Labour and Railways can also be integrated. It was emphasized that the strategies must be explored on sharing our solutions with other countries.
The eminent speakers also spoke about the various individual initiatives taken by them to promote teleconsultation through their networks and how they look forward to collaborating and working in coordination with the government on the eSanjeevani platform to provide universal health care. To expand the reach and facilities available on eSanjeevani platform introducing tele-ICU, Tele-emergencies, Ayurveda and Tele-Operations on the eSanjeevani app were discussed. The session participants agreed that if the vision of One India, One Health is to be realised then Telemedicine is definitely the way forward.
- Tele Mental Health Programme,moderated by Dr. Pratima Murthy, Director, NIMHANS.
Shri Vikas Sheel, AS&MD (NHM) made the opening presentation. The speakers welcomed the initiative and opined that the proposed intervention is a timely step especially in view of recent pandemic experience.This prompt and timely initiative indicates proactive governance.
It was pointed out that the proposed Tele-Mental Health Programme needs to cover all aspects of mental health care across the full continuum of care (primary, secondary & tertiary), bringing all the stakeholders and service providers on the same platform, including private sector and AYUSH providers. The speakers also highlighted that the model for Tele-Mental health ought to bebe citizen centric which could enable the citizens with specific and special needs to access appropriate services.Ownership and participation of state governments would be essential for implementation of the initiative.
It was also discussed that e-learning and training initiatives should be an integral part of the Programme, given the severe shortage of psychiatric professionals in the country.
Development of capacities of the Front-Line Health Workers such as Medical Officer, Community Health Officers, ANMs and ASHAs for early identification of symptoms of mental health issues and once identified, for providing mental health care services at the Primary Health Care level, would be critical. This would also address the barriers to access to digital consultations through facilitated consultations.
The speakers opined that all efforts need be made to integrate both the AYUSH service providers and the AYUSH practices in the range of mental healthcare services envisaged to be delivered. Suitable provisions should be made in the National Mental Health Programme. In addition, existing Telemedicine Guidelines should be aligned with the provisions of the Mental Health Care Act 2017. Suitable amendments may also be carried out in the Rules made under the Act to remove any inconsistencies and legal challenges. It was pointed out that the strengths of Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) and eSanjeevani platform should be leveraged.
Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, MoHFW, Shri Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, AYUSH, Dr R S Sharma, CEO,Shri Vikas Sheel, AS & MD, NHM, MoHFW, Shri Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, MoHFW, NHA, Dr Praveen Gedam, Additional CEO, NHA, Dr Pratima Murthy, Director, NIMHANS, Prof BN Gangadhar, Padmashree awardee and former Director of NIMHANS, Professor K. Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI, Dr Mohan Isaac, Clinical Prof. of Psychiatry, The University of Western Australia, Dr Anant Bhan, Researcher in Global Health, Sangath-USA/Goa, Dr Preeti Kumar, Vice President, PHFI and other senior officials of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, AYUSH Ministry, NIMHANS, NHM and public-private organisations were present in the meeting.