HEALTHCARE FROM A DISTANCE
SeekMed is a global telemedicine platform that allows patients from anywhere in the world to seek professional and ethical medical advice from India’s awardwinning and eminent doctors via video consultation. Alok Awasthi, Founder, SeekMed, discusses his work with us
WThis was a much-needed action from the government to optimise the healthcare industry of the nation that serves over 1.3 billion people. Having an individual health ID for every citizen would help in increasing accessibility of healthcare facilities, and ensure deeper penetration of services to the lowest levels of the social pyramid.
During the Covid-19 crisis, the masses have realised the need for digitisation in healthcare. This is an important step that will open doors for numerous technological integrations in the future.
hat is the foreseeable impact of the Prime Minister’s newlyannounced National Health Mission on the Indian digital healthcare sector?
The pilot project that is being run in 6 union territories would help get a clearer picture of the way ahead, but from the looks of it, the mission seems beneficial for the people specifically the ones from remote areas who currently have limited access to quality care.
NDHM is going to unlock avenues for smarter healthcare delivery, biomedical research and data driven decision-making in India. In many ways, this will set a global benchmark as no other nation would have such a huge medical database covering a significant portion of the population. This would be instrumental in the implementation of better healthcare management policies, and would also make healthcare awareness programs more effective by minimising the gap among various stakeholders in the Indian healthcare system, such as patient community, doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and health insurance providers.
How would the need for stricter guidelines required for data protection in India be addressed?
While data privacy remains a concern due to the unavailability of adequate laws that are imperative to protect medical records of the patients, there is always a scope to develop norms before the full-fledged implementation of the Health ID. Enforcement of the Digital Information Security in Healthcare Act (DISHA) and Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 (PDPB) is essential for solving the present data security concerns.
The transparency that this mission is going to bring would help in scrutinising and eliminating many unnecessary health procedures that are quite common in India. Many patients lose life due to misleading information and unnecessary treatment processes as a result of unethical practices. Improved oversight will help in weeding out quacks that pose a huge risk for the patients across the country. I also believe that there needs to be a system with qualifying criteria that allows healthtech solutions like SeekMed to access medical records with complete knowledge and consent of the patient.
What is the importance of data security in the digital healthcare industry?
This health ID that is going to be in the form of a mobile application would help unify all medical records and promote better management of records. Simultaneously, it would also provide patients with the option to choose the duration for which they want to share their information with specific organisations (hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and more). This would ensure the privacy of patient data and avoid unintended use. Integration of the digital health ID and Aadhar card is expected to make the process more effective and efficient, helping masses avail the benefits of various government health schemes. This is going to empower the patients as all long drawn unnecessary administrative procedures would be shortened for timely delivery.
People have to understand the more they use email, social media, drives to share medical records, the higher is the risk of data theft through various malware. Even in the USA, it is an administrative burden to accurately transfer a patient’s past medical records between doctors/hospitals and due to human intervention, there is always a risk of error and lag. However, this Health ID, if implemented properly, would solve the issue of data interoperability in India.
What recommendations should start-ups and other telemedicine platforms follow to secure EHRs; like, practising good cyber hygiene, building firewall protection, a virtual private network and most importantly staff training to avoid adversities?
High levels of data security can only be achieved with strict guidelines and norms levied by the government. At SeekMed, our platform is HIPAA (United States’s Health Information Privacy law) compliant and provides end to end encryption to patient’s data. Data is saved in the cloud (AWS) with servers located in India. Being a global telemedicine platform, we always strive to meet international standards in everything that we do.
Our quality focus is reflected not just in the doctor profiles we’re onboarding but also in technology, data privacy and customer service. It’s a fallacy that cyber vigilance is all about technology, although it plays a major role in it. It’s also about people and processes. Tele-medicine players must adopt processes that value patients’ sensitivities around their medical records and securely handle patient information. This is easier said than done but a sustained focus on the importance of patient data and continuous innovation will not only build trust with Indian patients but also further strengthen India’s position as the foremost medical tourism destination for the global patient community.