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    Here’s Why We’re Worried About NMC Mandating ABHA ID for Medical College Patient Registrations

    What’s the news: The National Medical Commission (NMC), India’s medical education regulator, has directed all medical colleges to make Ayushman Bharat Health Accounts (ABHA ID) mandatory for seeing patients, reported Mint. Until November 2023, this call for ABHA registration was only in the form of encouragement through circulars. However, according to this report, the patient registrations made through ABHA ID will also be used to assess the nearly 700 medical colleges that follow NMC directives.

    Dr B. Srinivas, Secretary, NMC instructed all medical colleges to register all patients with ABHA ID in addition to the hospital’s registration number. While patients will not be denied treatment for lack of an ABHA ID, the report stated that all decisions for medical colleges from the academic year 2025-26 will be considered based on the registration of patients via digital health IDs. This includes decisions regarding increasing the number of seats for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, annual renewals, and recognition by the NMC.

    What About Consent?

    A major concern regarding this move is the extent of access to personal data. As per the abovementioned report, the NMC will know “how many patients are coming from which region, what health problems they have, which type of disease is prevalent in which city or state and what kind of intervention government has to take.” However, will the patients visiting these hospitals be made aware that their data will be collected and stored in such a manner?

    The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 of India states that any entity wishing to collect and process an individual’s data must first ask for consent by sending a notice to the person. Granted that the Act also exempts certain government entities from these requirements but the notification listing these exempt entities is yet to come out. Therefore, it is still unclear whether healthcare-related entities also come under these exempt government bodies.

    No laws in India for anonymized or health data:

    Neither the current report nor the older NMC circular clarifies to what extent medical students will be able to access such patient data. It does not state whether patient identifiers like name, age, and sex will be accessible to medical students. The Mint report does mention that the data will be anonymized before being shared for research and policy-making. For now, there are no specific laws in India for such data categories. The DPDP Act 2023 also fails to talk at length about the security of health data.

    Why It Matters?

    As mentioned before, the ABHA registration of patients will impact the assessment of these medical colleges. Such a correlation will compel the institutions to carry out the registrations regardless of whether they have the necessary infrastructure to digitize patient records in such a manner. In light of this, it is important to look at the state of policy in India related to data management, particularly data processing. Last year, Telangana floated a tender for digitization of people’s health records. MediaNama spoke to experts regarding the impact of the move in the absence of adequate infrastructure, health data laws, and the prevalence of inequity in data. To know more about what the experts said, click here.

    Also Read:

    The post Here’s Why We’re Worried About NMC Mandating ABHA ID for Medical College Patient Registrations appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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