Beyond Paper Trails: Charting the way for India’s healthcare revolution

In the not-so-distant past, banking transactions were steeped in manual processes—writing checks, visiting bank branches, and maintaining physical ledgers. The advent of online banking brought about a seismic shift, automating financial processes and ushering in an era of saved time, energy, and money. It elevated transaction efficiency, ensured punctual execution, and empowered individuals to manage their finances on-the-go. 

However, what took years to become the banking norm is on the cusp of exploding in another realm: healthcare. 

Poised to alter the very fabric of the country’s healthcare activities,  Digital health Records (DHR), the electronic version of traditional paper-based health records, are all set to usher in another silent but impactful revolution in our country. DHR has the potential to bring in the same ease and convenience to healthcare that online banking brought to our lives and wallets. 

Introduced by the government in September 2021 under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) scheme to promote digitisation in healthcare, ABDM has embraced the colossal task of propelling the adoption of DHR at a national level. So far, over 330 million digital records have been uploaded and linked to ABDM, creating a national health stack. 

Understanding Digital Health Records:

Often used interchangeably with terms like electronic medical record systems (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR), digital health records represent the meticulous collection and storage of a patient’s lifetime health information in a digital format. This real-time, unique and longitudinal health record encapsulates an individual’s entire personal health information, from medical history and examinations to diagnoses, laboratory results, allergies, immunisation details, and treatment records which then allows physicians to offer faster and more accurate diagnoses and treatment. 

Digital Health Records: A global perspective 

While the Indian digital health landscape might appear nascent, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have woven their threads into the healthcare fabric of numerous nations for years. Countries like Dubai, Estonia, Denmark, and Sweden stand as beacons of successful implementation and reap the many benefits of interconnected health data today. 

Take Malaffi, a pioneering Health Information Exchange (HIE) platform which was launched in the Emirates in 2019, currently acts as a secure artery, connecting public and private healthcare providers across the UAE. The real-time information exchange creates a central hub of unified patient records, fueling better healthcare decisions and outcomes in the country. Malaffi’s near-universal integration within three years also stands as a testament to its effectiveness and has earned global recognition as one of the fastest-implemented HIEs. Infact, one of HIEs most advanced features – predictive patient risk profiles is possible due to the availability of over 2 billion clinical records of its citizens (Ref). 

But Malaffi is just one stitch in the global tapestry. EHRs, in various forms, are woven into the healthcare systems of numerous countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, and others. Infact, Estonia, a small country in the Baltic Region of Northern Europe boasts of one of the oldest, country-wide National Health Information systems (ENHIS) in the world. Launched in 2008, ENHIS has longitudinal health records of 100% of its citizens.  (Ref 1, Ref 2). 

During the pandemic, ENHIS transformed into a powerful analytical tool, enabling the Estonian government to dissect its health repository to identify trends and patterns and provided decisive interventions like targeted testings and swift lockdowns to contain the spread and make Estonia one of the least affected countries in Europe. 

However, despite the enormous benefits and willingness of governments across the world to design policies that support the adoption of DHRs, the road is not without challenges, especially in India. Be it the issue of uneven internet penetration, lack of awareness, standardisation or absence of a robust public-private partnership, these challenges, if addressed, have tremendous potential to positively impact the trajectory of our nation. 


Practo is on a mission to make quality healthcare affordable and accessible for over a billion+ Indians. India’s leading integrated healthcare company it connects the entire healthcare ecosystem together – including patients, doctors, surgeons, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and diagnostics – to generate exceptional value and service for all, especially the end consumers.

As technology becomes an integral part of healthcare, Practo has also become an essential enabler in helping doctors understand the nuances of managing and securely storing all health data. Practo encrypts all data with 256-bit encryption, uses HIPAA-compliant data centers, and is one of the few healthcare companies to be ISO 27001 certified. Practo is present in 20+ countries, helping over 30 crore patients, by connecting them with 1 lakh+ verified doctor partners.

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