National eHealth Authority for India soon!

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Making the ball rolling towards the establishment of the proposed National eHealth Authority (NeHA), the Union health ministry recently conducted a National Consultation on NeHA under the chairmanship of secretary, ministry of health, to give a final shape to the Authority. The proposed body will be the nodal authority responsible for development of an Integrated Health Information System (including Telemedicine and mHealth) in India, while collaborating with all the stakeholders, viz., healthcare providers, consumers, healthcare technology industries, and policymakers.

Senior officials from ministry of health & family welfare, and representatives from more than 23 states attended the National Consultation. There were also representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Association bodies (IMA, FICCI, NATHEALTH and NASSCOM), private healthcare providers and healthcare. IT experts along with vendors also participated in the meeting.

In the meeting, secretary, ministry of health, BP Sharma mentioned, “We have many mobile health applications which are successfully using information technology to monitor many diseases”. He emphasized that NeHA will be an important body and it will look into overall policy standards to bring IT and health care together.

Prof S N Sarbadhikari, project director, CHI presented the concept note outlining the aim, vision and goal of NeHA. He said the ministry of health is taking various initiatives in the areas related to use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in healthcare. In order to guide and support India’s journey in eHealth and consequent realization of benefits of ICT intervention in health sector in an orderly way, the ministry proposes to set up NeHA as a statutory body for promotional, regulatory and standards related roles.

Attainment of high quality health services for citizen through cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in health and health-related fields is its vision and its goal is to ensure development and promotion of eHealth ecosystem in India for enabling the organisation, management and provision of effective people-centric health services to all in an efficient, cost effective and transparent manner.

Prof Sarbadhikari mentioned that till 2015, the ministry had received 500 comments and suggestions on NeHA, which were very useful for further improvement. He also explained about National eHealth policy for health adoption in the country which includes data management, privacy and security, policy guidelines for health records of patients visiting the health facilities.

Once in place, the Authority will act as a promotional, regulatory and standards setting organisation to guide and support India’s journey in e-Health and consequent realization of benefits of ICT intervention in health sector in an orderly way. It will be responsible for enforcing the laws & regulations relating to the privacy and security of the patients health information & records.

One of the major goals of the Authority is to guide the adoption of e-Health solutions at various levels and areas in the country in a manner that meaningful aggregation of health and governance data and storage/exchange of electronic health records happens at various levels in a cost-effective manner. It will facilitate integration of multiple health IT systems through health information exchanges.

NeHA has been envisaged to support formulation of policies, strategies and implementation plan blueprint (National eHealth Policy/Strategy) for coordinated eHealth adoption in the country by all players; regulation and accelerated adoption of e-health in the country by public and private care providers and other players in the ecosystem; and to establish a network of different institutions to promote eHealth and Telemedicine/remote healthcare/virtual healthcare and such other measures.

It has been envisaged to support formulation and management of all health informatics standards for India; laying down data management, privacy & security policies, standards and guidelines in accordance with statutory provisions; to promote setting up of state health records repositories and health information exchanges (HIEs); and to deal with privacy and confidentiality aspects of electronic health records (EHR).

Source: 1, 2

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