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Andhra Pradesh’s IT interventions for preventive healthcare

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The state, by investing in technologies like data analytics and Blockchain, is preparing the base to improve citizens’ health. J A Chowdary, IT Advisor and Special Chief Secretary to Govt of AP, shares more details

Andhra Pradesh has been featured as one of the top performing states in the recently released Health Index by the Niti Aayog. The state government has previously rolled out, and is in the process of rolling out many technology initiatives in order to provide healthcare related, important data to citizens. The approach is to establish a preventive healthcare system for the overall well being of the state, which also concurs with India’s commitment to the United Nations’ health related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh holds the portfolio of ‘Happiness Index’, which is closely related to health. He personally tracks the development of the major factors affecting the citizen’s happiness, one of which is health. The approach the state has taken is on how to encourage citizens to be preventive against health ailments. The district and primary health centres are equipped with advanced medical equipment. Citizens are provided diagnostic facilities for regular health checkups. This will result in reduction of the healthcare care costs of citizens by spending less on healthcare costs vis-a-vis, spend after the disease has already reached an advanced stage, which requires hospitalisation, operation or surgery, etc.

Role of the private sector

Andhra Pradesh has also signed an MoU with Shivom, a Blockchain enabled healthcare platform. “Our partnership with Shivom explores the possibilities of providing an efficient way of diagnostic services to patients in Andhra Pradesh by maintaining the privacy of the individual data through Blockchain technology,” says J A Chowdary, IT Advisor and Special Chief Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Citizens can enter into an agreement with Shivom in giving their genome data for diagnosing their health vitals and taking preventive action. The decision to share this data with other agencies also rests with the citizens. Shivom will soon launch a Blockchain healthcare development centre in Vizag.

To overcome the ballooning costs incurred on expensive medical devices, a state-of-the-art MedTech park has been setup in Vizag. An enabling environment has been set up startups in the medical space to design and develop cost effective medical solutions and devices. This will promote entrepreneurship among health-tech and med-tech startups and also serve the society in the form of cost effective and reasonably priced healthcare interventions.

The state has joined hands with Cerner, a health and hospital system provider. Cerner will set up a developing centre in Vizag, for reusing the healthcare solutions developed by the company in other parts of the world, which can be customised for the local requirements and implementation in Andhra Pradesh. “There is no point in reinventing the wheel if the solution to the problem can be adapted to our conditions. Cerner is a global company and if they already have a solution, we should go for it,” says Chowdary.

Government initiatives

The Chief Minister personally keeps tabs on family specific programmes like ‘Kutumba Vikasam’ (family development), which comprises a number of parameters for a happy family, one of which is health. Under the Praja Sadhikara survey conducted by government volunteers, data from all the families is collected on a number of criteria. Analytics is run over it, which gives an insight into the health index geography wise, whether it is the smallest unit of the state like a village or a metro city. “It throws pinpointed results on the proximity of certain diseases, which are prevalent in a particular village, or in a particular area in a city. For example, specialists can be routed in an area prevalent in a particular viral disease. Similarly, oncologists can be deputed to a geography where the number of cancer cases are rising,” explains Chowdary.

Another major initiative that will soon take wings is Electronic Health Records (EHRs). They will be guarded and wrapped with Blockchain, which provides a robust security platform. In addition to providing security, Blockchain also allows patients to monetise their records. Currently, patients aren’t aware if their personal health records are being shared by the hospitals to a drug or pharma company. The hospital has access to the personal records of scores of patients.

“The Government of Andhra Pradesh will soon kick off a pilot project, which puts the power in the hands of the patient – whether to permit the access of his personal health data to health agencies in return of some kind of a royalty or even to the extent, if a part of revenue can be shared,” informs Chowdary.

Blockchain provides for the security features, which stop any access without permission. The patient’s name is not revealed even after he permits access, and the data is anonymised. This initiative will majorly reduce the requirement for citizens to physically carry their medical records. They can be directly accessed by the doctor, who can, after proper consent from the citizen, pull the Blockchain wrapped data hosted on the cloud platform.

When asked whether data from the Praja Sadhikara survey will also be added to the EHRs, Chowdary said, “The data collected from the Praja Sadhikara survey will be in the custody of the AP Government, which will not be shared with any agencies. It will be solely used for framing policies and health related interventions carried out by the government from time to time.” The state is also developing a Hospital Information Management System (HIMS). It’s a kind of an hospital ERP that will connect all the hospitals in Andhra Pradesh. The ERP is planned such that the most required medicines, based on the disease concentration in that area, will be delivered. It’s also planned that the medicines have not lapsed their expiry dates.

The AP Fibernet project has benefited many citizens, especially in rural areas, to consult specialist doctors from the comfort of their homes. The state has provided, through fiber optic connectivity, speeds of more than 10-15 Mbps, through the Fiber to Home project. This has helped citizens to get medical advice, take second opinion on their ailments and take an informed decision.

“The plan is to connect every home in Andhra Pradesh with fiber optic connectivity by 2019. Currently, close to 30-40 per cent work has been completed, but we are hopeful that the work will be over by the deadline,” informs Chowdary. There are certain issues regarding the last mile connectivity, with respect to providing the set-top boxes, whether the citizens or the service provider should bear the cost.

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