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NHA Urges Healthtech Startups To Innovate With Digital Health Stack

Digital Health Stack is made up of three different technology stacks – ABHA, UHI, and the HCX

All three stacks will help reach healthcare to villages and other underserved regions

The government is looking forward to achieving ubiquity within a year, and by mid-2023, all three of the stacks will be in use across various healthtech startups

Speaking at the Plaksha Digital Health Conference, Kiran Anandampillai, founder, iDrishti, and advisor at National Health Authority (NHA), has introduced Digital Health Stack— a technology stack with three different stacks.

These stacks will enable healthtech startups to benefit from the government’s initiatives and develop solutions to deliver healthcare to the most remote of villages.

Further, Anandampillai also invited the healthtech startups to use their APIs and the stacks, which are available for free, and develop innovative solutions and services using the stacks, and the data it generates and provides.

The Triumvirate Of Technology Stacks

Brought by the National Health Authority, this Digital Health Stack has three technology stacks. The first stack is called the ABHA, short for Ayushman Bharat Health Account. Earlier called the Health Card under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, this will allow the user to register themselves in a program which, similar to AADHAR and DigiLocker and will further bring all of a person’s healthcare information in one place.

As Anandampillai said, “The health stack will involve building interoperable digital health services.”

The ABHA stack allows healthcare partners such as doctors, hospitals, and labs to upload the digital records of a person to the ecosystem, which can then be aggregated to a user’s account.

What’s more, since the data is coming from a variety of sources, and since each of these sources will use ABHA/ABDM compliant software to upload the files, the entire data set of a customer is truly decentralised, without the need of implementing blockchain technology. This decentralisation allows for high security.

The second stack, called the United Healthcare Interface, or UHI, involves payments related to healthcare services. The stack will allow doctors to present their services on a single platform, and allow them to deliver telemedicine services as well.

As Anandampillai said, “Only a few per cent of consultations go live. Doctors don’t want to promote any platforms in fears of cannibalism of traffic.” He added that the UHI gives these doctors a platform to promote their individual practices and allow them to cover far more regions.

The NHA advisor also said that they have data that showed that urban doctors can serve villages, as they have the time to do so. “We have data to show that there is enough time at the hands of these urban doctors to serve villages,” he claimed.

“India’s primary challenge in the delivery of healthcare is the lopsided presence of healthcare professionals,” he said, bringing into focus the importance of UHI in reaching these underserved regions.

The UHI stack will also include a payments infrastructure within the app, where these doctors can receive payments for the same. However, the UHI stack will not work towards making healthcare any more affordable, as it will only concern itself with creating a unified platform for delivering healthcare.

The third stack or the Health Claims Exchange, or HCX involves itself with insurance claims. This will allow for smooth processing of these loan claims.

According to Anandampillai, an insurance claim right now is entirely paper-based, and an average insurance claim ends up taking INR 700 in processing charges. Therefore, the HCX will make all of the claims processing easy for patients, and “make interoperability happen between players and providers,” as the NHA advisor said.

Rollout In April, Ubiquity In 2023

Kiran also offered a brief timeline of events as to when and how the government is planning on rolling out the digital health stack. He informed that ABDM Sandbox is hosting all of the APIs concerned with the Digital Health Stack, and are free to use. With these, the NHA expects that by April-May, many startups will ‘be live with these [APIs]’.

The government is looking forward to achieving ubiquity within a year, and by mid-2023, all three of the stacks will be in use across various healthtech startups.

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