The launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) was announced by Sri Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister on the 74th Independence Day on 15 August 2020. In this regard, the National Health Authority (NHA), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, released the Draft Health Data Management Policy (Draft Policy) on 26 August 2020 as a part of the NDHM for feedback and stakeholder comments to be submitted by 21 September 2020.
The Draft Policy brings within its scope, the entities involved in the NDHM and the partners/persons who are a part of the National Digital Health Ecosystem (NDHE). These include inter alia entities and individuals who have been issued an ID under the Draft Policy, healthcare professionals, health care providers who collect, store and transmit health data in electronic form in connection with its transactions, drug manufacturers, medical device manufacturers, insurers, research bodies, and governing bodies such as the MoHFW.
KEY HIGHLGHTS OF THE DRAFT HEALTH DATA MANAGEMENT POLICY
While the PDP Bill is yet to be debated upon in the Parliament, the provisions of the Draft Policy seem to borrow heavily from the same. Such a step leaves room for debate as to whether this policy is trying to implement aspects of the Bill that should have ideally passed the muster of Parliamentary deliberation. As a result, there are certain inconsistencies which may create a conflict with these legislations. For instance, regulations under the PDP Bill including those in relation to the manner of enforcement of rights of data principals were meant to be dealt thereunder. Further, the inconsistencies in the definitions, owing to the fact that multiple legislations now contain same or similar definitions of certain concepts, might lead to implementation issues. Managing crucial health data of over a billion citizens in the manner envisaged, is not only a logistical challenge, but also comes with a host of potential risks of breach and misuse. The Draft Policy, while being an ambitious vision, should consider these challenges and concerns.