Digitisation of Healthcare Services: A Game Changer in Goa
When Prem Chand Sharma, a carpenter from North Goa’s Corlim, visited the primary health center (PHC) for a check-up, he was met with a long queue. Already running late for work, Sharma was about to leave when an attendant directed him to a counter. There, the attendant asked whether he owned a smartphone and carried his Aadhaar card. Within minutes, Sharma had his Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) ID – a digital health identification number.
With his ABHA ID, Sharma could access the app, obtain a token number, and view the consultation timing at the outpatient department (OPD) on a waiting room screen. After seeing the doctor, his diagnosis and prescribed medication were uploaded online, and an e-prescription was sent to the pharmacist. Half an hour later, Sharma collected his medicines from the pharmacy.
This seamless experience of digitisation has become possible in Goa’s Corlim PHC after its integration with ABHA. The PHC, which caters to a population of over 48,000 people across ten villages, offers several specialized OPDs, a laboratory, an antenatal clinic, and a pharmacy. On average, at least 100 patients visit the PHC daily.
The objective of this project, according to officials from the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), is to provide a seamless and hassle-free experience for patients. The digitisation process has eliminated the manual handling of documents, reducing the chances of misplacement. Now, patients have all their information and medical records on their phones. With an ABHA ID, these patients no longer have to wait in long queues, as the entire process, from registration to diagnosis, has become automated.
Moreover, this digital health initiative offers doctors real-time access to patients’ medical history, previous diagnoses, treatments, and prescribed medicines. This facilitates retrospective treatment, investigations, and the prescription of accurate dosages of medicines. In the long run, the digitisation of services will enable a more robust and transparent method of record-keeping and data collection. This can help authorities frame policy decisions, build capacity, and identify health outcome trends in specific regions. For instance, if a larger proportion of diabetic and hypertension cases are observed in a particular area, authorities can respond in real-time and make informed treatment decisions.
The Corlim PHC’s successful digitisation process has attracted attention and acclaim, including from Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The G20 health working group also showcased the PHC during its meeting in Goa. The state, with its 24 PHCs, six community health centers, two sub-district hospitals, and over 30 rural medical dispensaries, is actively working on digitising more healthcare facilities.
Currently, about 35% of the patients visiting the Corlim PHC avail themselves of the digitally-enabled healthcare facilities. However, the PHC still operates in a hybrid mode due to operational challenges. Patients who do not own smartphones or are not tech-savvy can access registrations and services manually at separate counters. Internet connectivity remains an issue in some remote areas, hindering the digitisation process. Moreover, some patients do not have Aadhaar linked to their numbers, making it challenging to create ABHA IDs. The elderly population also faces difficulty navigating the digital system.
To overcome these challenges, efforts are being made by PHC attendants and officials to guide patients through the new system. This transition from a paper-based to a digital information system also requires a change in patient behavior. For those concerned about privacy, services are still available through the traditional paper-based system. Patients’ health records can only be accessed through a one-time password sent to their phones, and their consent is obtained before registration.
Despite these challenges, the digitisation of healthcare services in Goa is proving to be a game-changer. With 4.2 lakh ABHA IDs already created and registered, patients are experiencing time-saving benefits, and authorities are gaining a better understanding of health outcomes. The improved record-keeping and data collection will not only enhance patient care but also support policy decisions and identify health trends. As digitisation continues, the digital health initiative in Goa will undoubtedly continue to improve and revolutionize the healthcare system for the better.