Biometric health record access proposed by Indian government committee

India should digitize its healthcare system with interoperable electronic health records (EHRs) and Aadhaar-based biometric patient identification, according to a report from a committee led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the federal government, LiveMint reports.

The National Digital Health Blueprint is meant to provide a framework for the National Health Stack (NHS) proposed last year. The blueprint was presented by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, with proposals to create a National Digital Health Mission, a Personal Health Identifier, and Health Master Directory and Registries. The identifier would be established through consultations between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

“The uniqueness in identification of persons (citizens) required as an essential attribute of PHI is sought to be achieved through a combination of Aadhaar-based identification or authentication for schemes notified under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, and through other specified types of identifiers in respect of the rest,” the blueprint says, as reported by LiveMint.

The blueprint also calls for omni-channel access, with an Indian Health Portal for web access, a MyHealth mobile app, call centers and social media accounts. The changes could bring down health care costs, as well as give Indian citizens access to their health records within five clicks, according to India News.

In certain situations, the Personal Health Identifier would be used instead of Aadhaar for patient authentication.

“While Aadhaar assures uniqueness of identity and provides an online mechanism for authentication, it cannot be used in every health context as per the applicable regulations,” the committee report says, as quoted by The Indian Express. The design of PHI, therefore, must allow multiple identifiers (chosen from the specified types of identifiers) for designing the structure and processes relating to PHI.”

The government is still in the process of refining Aadhaar rules to take in more services, including those provided by the private sector. The Mission, like UIDAI, would be independent, and partially self-funding through transaction fees from companies using its services.

The Health Ministry will accept stakeholder comments until August 4.

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