J&K healthcare undergoing digital transformation

Dr Shafqat Khan

Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission (ABDM) has become an instrumental factor in transforming the healthcare ecosystem of Jammu & Kashmir, shares Dr Shafqat Khan, Additional Mission Director, Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission and Nodal Officer of AI and Ease of Doing Business, UT of Jammu & Kashmir in an exclusive interaction with Abhineet Kumar & Rose Jaiswal of Elets News Networks (ENN).

What are the key objectives and initiatives of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission, and how does it impact the healthcare landscape in Jammu & Kashmir?

The Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission (ABDM) aims to digitise the healthcare ecosystem of J&K and create an efficient digital infrastructure for healthcare services. Its key objectives and initiatives include:

  • ABHA Id Creation: Every individual of J&K receives a unique 14-digit health ID which establishes their identity across the healthcare system of the country and is supposed to record their healthcare journey.
  • Building a comprehensive digital infrastructure to facilitate seamless exchange of health information securely between healthcare providers, patients, and other stakeholders across private and Government Health Care System in J&K.
  • Since a lot of area of J&K is hilly terrain and difficult to reach, Telemedicine and Remote Consultations shall provide healthcare access to rural and remote areas, thus reducing geographical barriers.
  • Health Facility Registry and Health Professionals Registry: Creating a verified and authentic registry of all the healthcare facilities and professionals across the UT to improve their accessibility and enhance the efficiency of healthcare services.
  • Scan & Share: Reducing the waiting time for OPD ticketing by enabling the Scan and Share feature for healthcare facilities to generate online tokens.
  • Health Records Management: Encouraging healthcare providers to maintain digital health records and making it easier for patients to access their medical history.

ABDM has certainly affected the healthcare landscape of J&K. It has increased the transparency in healthcare services and hence improved the accountability and the quality of the care provided. The creation of health IDs has led to better management of healthcare needs. The facility of Scan and Share at the healthcare facilities has significantly made the healthcare journey of patients quite convenient and hassle-free. Citizens can now book their OPD tickets from the comfort of their homes. 116 facilities in J&K have been successful in implementing this feature.

Many healthcare facilities have received a considerable amount of monetary incentive under the Digital Health Incentive Scheme launched by the National Health Authority. The incentives are released well in time to help the facilities improve the quality of care by filling up the monetary/ funding gaps for hardware and required infrastructure

What strategies or measures are being implemented to ensure that the benefits of digital health and AI reach underserved and remote areas in Jammu & Kashmir?

The major portion of J&K is hard to reach because of the difficult terrain. In order to ensure last mile connectivity and outreach, field staff is deputed in these areas. Health Workers are deputed to snow bound areas on foot. Wherever, there are internet issues, physical capturing of data is done and ABHA cards are generated later. Door to door campaigns are launched. People who don’t own a smartphone are given physical ABHA Cards. Smart guns, for scanning the ABHA Cards and subsequently generating OPD tickets for the patients without a smartphone, have been made available at the healthcare facilities through the Scan & Pull facility.

A mix of highly qualified professionals work for smooth operation and implementation of ABDM in the UT, despite the establishment of a formal PMU awaiting approval. The participation of the health workers and allied field staff has always remained excellent and played an important role in successful implementation of the mission.

As the Nodal Officer for Ease of Doing Business, what steps have been taken to facilitate a conducive environment for businesses, particularly in the healthcare sector, to thrive in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir?

18 Citizen Centric Services are online, some of which are on the Single Window Platform of the UT of J&K. It is being ensured that all citizens can access health services with ease and without hassle. J&K is presently offering more than 1000 services online.

How do you envision the role of private sector participation in the healthcare and digital health sectors in Jammu & Kashmir, and what policies or incentives are in place to encourage such collaboration?

Private healthcare facilities and professionals are already catering to a significant portion of the population, especially in urban areas. They comprise an important part of the healthcare ecosystem of J&K. However, the big and reputed names in the private sector of healthcare delivery are being roped in for investing in J&K for which the private sector is also being incentivized by providing land and various subsidies to enhance and facilitate their participation. In fact a considerable number of private players have already established their healthcare establishments in J&K and a number of corporate hospitals are showing their interest to enter the health care landscape of J&K.

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In the context of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission, what are the key priorities and milestones you aim to achieve in the coming years to improve healthcare access and quality for the residents of Jammu & Kashmir?

The key priorities for implementation of the ABDM Mission are the registration of the Citizen by issuing an ABHA ID, and the next steps to map all the Government and Private Health Care facilities and the Health Professionals on a verified database in J&K State. It is the mission of our State office to facilitate the Doctors for creating Electronic Medical Records with ease so that a repository shall be created which shall be shared across the country by the citizens in any health institutions. It is also envisaged that the AB-PMJAY Golden Insurance Card shall also be merged with the ABHA ID to provide hassle free and seamless healthcare to the citizens of J&K. The Health infrastructure of the State has been optimised to a level to ensure that the Human Resource in healthcare shall be synchronised according to the requirements and demands of the particular local areas and thrust is given to strengthening the primary and secondary healthcare of J&K.

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