“We already have 140 million, almost 14 crore, health IDs generated in India right now. 96% of them are linked to Aadhaar, the others are linked to a mobile phone number and for a few weeks we have been offering an alternative option to link it to the driver’s license ”, Praveen Gedam, mission director of the Ayushman digital mission Bharat (ABDM) said during a webinar organized to simplify the digital health mission for doctors on November 18.

Gedam revealed new details on ABDM to be rolled out nationwide, such as Unique Health Identifier (UHID) authentication, the technical-legal challenges it faces, upcoming consultation documents, future plans for Aarogya Setu, etc.

The Indian government’s digital health mission offers a multi-tiered digital health architecture that, using registries like UHID, will generate longitudinal electronic health records, facilitate teleconsultations, and more. However, the mission also led to several privacy concerns, running into controversy for the reported cases of individuals being forced to register with the project.

What Gedam revealed during the webinar

Unique health ID authentication: “Going forward, links with PAN, Passport (for unique health identifiers) so that Aadhaar is not made mandatory as it cannot be made mandatory through legal procedures,” Gedam said. Currently, thanks to OTP authentication, individuals can potentially have multiple health identifiers, on different numbers, in addition to the one linked to their Aadhaar. Once the link is activated, Indians with mobile UHIDs will receive a message asking them to link it to a government-issued ID, Gedam revealed.

Plans for the Aarogya Setu app: Gedam said Aarogya Setu “will provide single storage for a person’s health records from all health facilities.” This would mean that Aarogya Setu could be used to extract an individual’s health records, linked to their health identifier. Last year, Arnab Kumar of NITI Aayog, who spearheaded the creation of the app, said the app could be the “initial building block for India Health Stack”. At the time, he said there were plans to introduce features like “telemedicine video consultations” and “personalized data collection” on the app.

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In the future, facial authentication for ABDM? “.. sign in using email, sign in using Aadhaar, sign in using face, sign in using mobile number – All of these options are already being developed by various product developers, ”Gedam said, responding to a doctor’s question about whether they would need different healthcare facility, patient, and doctor IDs on the ABDM.

ABDM has planned integrations with several private players who, through application program interfaces (APIs), will build consumer and other services on top of databases and the basic structure of ABDM. During the webinar, Gedam revealed that currently 600 of these integrations are underway.

Incoming consultation document: Gedam said a drug registry will be proposed by the NHA via a consultation document that will be posted on the NHA website next month. The drug registry had been briefly mentioned in the NDHM master plan and strategy document as a key part of the baseline data that the mission seeks to collect.

“The NDHM data layer [now ABDM] will help create the baseline data on various aspects of healthcare including identification of patients, doctors, healthcare facilities, drugs, etc. – NDHM plan

ABDM Progress to Date

In October, ABDM was rolled out nationwide, moving from its pilot phase to 6 Union territories. While some parts of the ABDM are already operational, such as its health identification, the registers of health professionals and establishments are still at the consultative or pre-consultative stage. So far, NHA has released consultation documents on Unified Health Interface, Register of Health Professionals, Register of Health Facilities, Draft NDHM Implementation Strategy, Master Plan NDHM, data policy, sandbox framework guidelines, etc.

In August, during a consultation meeting, the NHA said that more consultation documents on sharing and exchanging health information from ABDM (methodology behind sharing health data in the ABDM framework) and a “use policy” (to govern how health data is shared (or not) with private, public and non-government organizations) will be released soon.

In addition to the Center, the NDHM has also given impetus to health digitization projects at the state level. Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Bihar are the three states that have launched such projects.

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