Digital health IDs in Karnataka
Why in news?
The health department is planning to issue Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) IDs for the entire population in the next few months. Though the IDs are optional as of now, the department believes it will become universal soon, and can lead to major changes in disease surveillance and policy making. However, health and data activists are skeptical.
- Karnataka has so far created ABHA IDs for 89.4 lakh citizens. Personal health records (PHRs) can be created online for those who have these IDs.
- PHRs have been created for 2 per cent (1.96 lakh) of those with the IDs.
- PHRs can be accessed by healthcare professionals and facilities anywhere, making consultations and telemedicine easier, especially for patients from rural areas.
- Currently, there are three mechanisms by which ABHA IDs are created – individuals availing it themselves online, health department issuing it simultaneously during its insurance card distribution campaign and government hospitals creating the IDs for some of their patients. Only a person’s Aaadhar number is required to create the ABHA ID.
- Ayushman Bharat digital mission, health professionals and facilities would also need to register to access patients’ ABHA IDs and PHRs.
What are its benefits ?
- Patients can decide which professionals they share their ABHA ID
- In the long term, the idea is that all professionals and citizens are registered, which would result in better availability of disease data.
- The number of patients and their illness will be reflected in the doctor’s This will help us know the prevalence of certain types of diseases in the state, and accordingly how much we should invest in each programme,
- The digital platform is developed with strong security and encryption mechanisms. Your consent is required every time your PHR is being accessed.
- There is no compulsion to apply for a health ID card. You can participate at your own will, and it is voluntary. You can also opt-out and request to erase your data anytime.
What are the cons in the system ?
- The government has no control over the private health sector. If a doctor avoids sharing data, the government can’t take action against him
- Internet Freedom Foundation says the Centre’s Draft Health Data Management Policy, 2022, talks about sharing health data with private companies, but doesn’t have sufficient safeguards to restrict its use.
- According to the Supreme Court judgement of Puttaswamy v/s Union of India on Aadhaar and right to privacy, an identity like National Health ID can’t be created without a separate law. So ABHA can be challenged legally. India doesn’t have a data protection law either, to ensure that such data is not misused.