G-20: A rare opportunity to give a global perspective to digital health

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Today without the internet, imagine a world where computer networks are not connected to each other. In such a contactless world, people in one country can continue to work on re-inventing a capability that has been harnessed for years in another part of the world. But without a standardized Internet protocol, our version of reality will look radically different from a system that has multiple local area networks but no uniform standard Internet facility to plug into. This alternate version of reality is similar to the flux the digital health sector is facing today – a world on the cusp of disruptive technologies waiting for a decisive initiative, along with a standardized framework and direction from international leadership on this matter To ensure that innovation that has the potential to benefit billions of people is sustained while fostering in the Global South.

The Exciting World of Digital Health Small but impactful applications and sub-sectors Smart Wearables, Internet of Things, Virtual Care, Remote Monitoring, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Block-Chain, Tools that Enable Data Exchange, Storage, Remote Data Capture is full of innovations but it remains mired in a fragmented ecosystem in the absence of a unified global approach. All these circumstances come at a time when the pandemic has already made us realize the extraordinary potential of digital tools in the healthcare sector. Creating a Framework to Promote Digital Health – A Great Experiment in India In the recent past, we in India have experienced as well as harnessed the transformative potential of digital tools in the public health sector. During COVID-19, platforms like Covin and e-Sanjeevani proved to be a complete game-changer. These digital tools have not only changed the way vaccines are administered, but have also brought health services to more than a billion people, including those who were hardest to reach.

The digital backbone of India’s COVID-19 vaccination program – Covin, which on the one hand tracks the availability and administration of the vaccine, while on the other hand it tracks the actual vaccination process, apart from registering each beneficiary for COVID-19 vaccination. Provides digital certificate as proof of vaccination as well as other facilities.

By reducing the information asymmetry between the people and the system, Covin democratized the vaccination drive while also ensuring that the availability of vaccines was made accessible to all eligible beneficiaries. Rich or poor, it was the same way of getting vaccinated for all and all stood in the same queue to get vaccinated. Realizing the potential of this powerful instrument, our Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi presented it as a gift to the world.

Similarly, telemedicine platform e-Sanjeevani, through which people got the facility of online consultation with doctors from the comfort of their homes, quickly became popular with over 10 crore consultations done through it. The highest number of consultations of more than 5 lakhs were also taken in a day through this platform. The digitally enabled Covid war room helped us take evidence-based policy decisions almost in real time. An exclusive monitoring system – the COVID-19 India portal, assessed the demand at the national, state and district levels, based on geographical location, not only disease but also the number of cases, and also monitored the inventory required for essential supplies. Paved the way for our country to convert data into policy through Aarogya Setu, RT-PCR app and other digital tools which strengthened our COVID-19 policy response by an order of magnitude.

To harness the full potential of digital tools in public health, India is already building a national digital health ecosystem – the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). Through this, patients can access and store their medical records and share them with healthcare providers to ensure proper treatment and post-treatment process. It helps patients to get accurate information about health facilities and service providers. India under the able leadership of our Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is ready to share our learning and resources to create a similar digital health ecosystem for the world, especially in low and middle income countries so that our experiences can make them digital public Can help in the efforts made for things. The underserved in these regions of the world can take advantage of state-of-the-art digital solutions and innovations and make the dream of universal healthcare coverage a reality. What is the global digital health ecosystem? Copyright regimes and proprietary systems block access to digital solutions. Most transformative digital solutions are not readily available because they are unevenly distributed in terms of language, content and the infrastructure needed to access them. Even when relevant digital public goods or open-source solutions exist, their utility is limited because they are tied to a single platform, data and policy for which there are no uniform global standards. Furthermore, there is also no comprehensive global governance framework for digital health that can take care of interoperability across systems. There are also several independent efforts underway to set global standards in the context of digital health, but these initiatives are operating as monopolies, and are largely unorganized without any backing for enforcement. These challenges can be turned into opportunities if we as a global community can resolve to pool all efforts equally on an effective single platform. In this case, the G-20 effectively stands as a powerful forum to discuss and build a vision for the future for digital health. India’s Chairmanship of G20 Striving for a Digital Health Breakthrough Imagine if we create and implement an effective global model for digital health for humanity, this extraordinary potential can be harnessed equally for all Could For this we need to collectively convert the various ongoing efforts into a common global initiative on digital health, as well as institutionalize a governance framework, collaborate on common protocols, promising healthcare as digital public goods. The need to establish institutions to identify and scale up digital solutions, bring together all relevant stakeholders from different disciplines and sectors, build trust for global health data exchange and find ways to finance such initiatives as it was done for the Internet decades ago.

As part of the G-20 chairmanship, we in India will seek to build consensus on some of these issues and a roadmap with a viable mechanism to operationalize them, so that the full potential of digital health can be realized in the Global South. Including can be used for the whole world. To write a success story in digital health, we must value the collective well-being beyond our narrow interests and understand that the universe extends far beyond the borders of our own countries when it comes to universal health care coverage. In short, our will and action at the G-20 are aligned with the soulful motivation of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means that the universe is one family and for that family, it is our responsibility to protect the health of the universe at any cost.

(The author is the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Chemicals and Fertilizers).

Dr Mansukh Mandaviya

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