Govt launches nationwide census to create India’s first registry of healthcare facilities; 4,000 enumerators out to collect data

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The Union Health Ministry has launched a countrywide census project to create the National Health Resource Repository (NHRR), India’s first registry of authentic and updated geospatial data on all public and private healthcare establishments. Once completed, the integrated health informatics platform would have more than 20 lakh hospitals, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes listed.

The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), the national nodal agency for health intelligence that conceptualised the NHRR, currently banks on data from state governments, union territories and disease control programmes to ensure effective health resource management and allocation. However, deficiencies such as non-reporting and under-reporting of public health information continue to exist, particularly in the private sector.

According to a senior health ministry official, more than 4,000 trained professionals are working as enumerators and supervisors to approach every healthcare establishment for collecting details of health infrastructure, human resources and availability of medical facilities. “The enumerators will try to complete the collection process by the end of the year. Timely and accurate information is imperative for utilising private healthcare infrastructure and facilitating public-private partnerships. However, unavailability of private sector healthcare statistics remains a major challenge to our policymakers. The new registry is expected to fill these lacunae in service delivery which would considerably improve our public health decision-making process,” the official added.

The government has requested public and private healthcare institutions to furnish details of physical infrastructure, medical equipment status, quality control and technological certification. Health institutions can also register online through the National Centre of Geo-informatics portal.

The NHRR project, with the backing of the Indian Space Research Organisation as the technology partner, will also be linked with Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission to speed up hospital empanelment and private sector engagement. It will establish a reliable, unified registry showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas.

Of late, the Central government has been adopting a slew of measures to digitise healthcare information to enable interoperability and the NHRR is seen as the latest addition to them. A few months back, the health ministry amended the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules of 1945 to make a digital declaration mechanism mandatory for all drug manufacturers. The move aims at building a comprehensive, real-time database on domestic drug industry. In July, government think-tank Niti Aayog proposed the creation of a National Health Stack to make both personal health documents and service provider records available on cloud-based services using the Internet. Furthermore, the draft of the proposed Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act to establish a nodal agency for creating regulatory framework for digital healthcare data was recently finalised. The statutory body is to be set up through an Act of Parliament.

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