Home >News >India >Covid-19 pandemic showed fault lines on urban and digital health: Ayushman Bharat CEO
Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY CEO Indu Bhushan. Photo: HT
Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY CEO Indu Bhushan. Photo: HT

Covid-19 pandemic showed fault lines on urban and digital health: Ayushman Bharat CEO

  • Bhushan said that 100TB data helped government in detection of high risk groups and people with co-morbidities to provide information, education for covid-19
  • Preeti Sudan, the outgoing secretary, union health ministry also a speaker said that India has trained over 7 million people to tackle the covid-19 pandemic

New Delhi: The health crisis emerging out of covid-19 pandemic showed the fault lines on urban and digital health in India, and government initiatives using data helped in responding to the challenges, said Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO of Ayushman Bharat on Saturday.

He was speaking at a virtual event conducted by The Nudge Foundation, Bangalore based nonprofit organisation in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and the Skoll Foundation.

Bhushan said that 100TB data helped government in detection of high risk groups and people with co-morbidities to provide information, education for covid-19.

“IT backbone that was created has been sought after by many states. Our Call centre supported during the crisis and so far 60 lakh calls fielded so far. Initiatives like these help build resilience during medical emergencies," he said during the session titled —the road ahead: Building resilience in India's primary healthcare system.

Preeti Sudan, the outgoing secretary, union health ministry also a speaker said that India has trained over 7 million people to tackle the covid-19 pandemic.

Sudan said that one of the key elements of resilience is statement of deliverables in primary healthcare. In context of covid-19 pandemic, Sudan said, “We need to know what are the targets, given the physical geographical diversity. We also have local epidemics. All this means we need to define deliverables. We need to merge vertical programs horizontally."

She said that health ministry alone cannot handle health, but Ministry of Women and Child, Ministry of Rural Development, Swacch Bharat, Fit India Movement, etc. Multi sectoral ministries have to converge, for making the healthcare resilient.

Field workers working together and leveraging technology (e-sanjeevani) can help build resilience along with strengthening human resources such as Doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, lab technicians.

“We have done a lot of work towards this also. India has increased seats in medical colleges, undergraduate and postgraduate, specialists, diplomas. We have also started with Health & Wellness centers - community health providers – this needs to be worked on. This will help build resilience and it is being done in medical education. We have 44,000 community health providers in our Health & Wellness Centers," Sudan said.

During the same session, elaborating on human resources, Dr Devi Shetty - Chairman & Founder, Narayana Health pointed out that in the near future, there is an expected shortage of 12-13 million healthcare professionals globally.

“Developed countries will open their doors to developing countries, offering better compensation. It is an existential threat to India to not look at the healthcare needs of the world. We need to reorganize our training programs so that students can easily pass entrance exams and get suitable jobs," said Shetty.

“There are 500 medical colleges in the country today that can take upto 100-150 students per year. We have 700 district hospitals. These should be part of medical colleges," he said adding that each medical college should be asked to double the number of seats. Pre-clinical training happens in the campus, Clinical work in the district hospital.

Shetty said that from 60,000 to 70,000 seats in medical colleges, one can double the seats at virtually no cost to the government.

Once a district hospital is converted to a medical college, the delivery of healthcare in the district will change. Students will go to these districts because of the education opportunity, said Shetty. He recommended that reorganising the training program will have high impact on transformation in medical field and medical education.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientists at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in her address said that the Countries which have invested in the past on public health, universal health coverage and good primary healthcare, good surveillance systems have fared much better.

She cautioned of the challenges for India in tackling the ongoing pandemic despite managing it well in terms of ramping up testing. “The challenges ahead are still huge due to the obvious factors - population, diversity, capacity of our health systems, overcrowding in the cities and the lack of access in rural areas, said Swaminathan adding that there is a need to be innovative, flexible and rooted in science, data and evidence with room for local contextualization.


She said that India has been investing heavily in data systems - unique identification, electronic health record, National Health Stack and the National Health Assurance authority working digitally. All of this is helping to build the backbone of digital health infra which will be key for the future.


“This is also an opportunity to invest in telemedicine. And not only just for the classic patient-doctor scenarios but also for training, supporting and communicating with our frontline workers, and many-one shared virtual appointments in managing chronic diseases,"’she said.

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