Technology is a double-edged sword that has the potential to hurt and heal, contingent on the quality of its deployment. India is currently weighing the pros and cons of adapting Aadhar, the 12-digit Digital Identifying number to digitize the healthcare system in throughout the country
The health ministry on July 15th, 2019, as part of the National Digital Health Blueprint unveiled plans to pursue ambitions of universal health coverage. The ministry hopes to use Aadhar to create a Universal electronic health database that will have the health information of all the people in the county
The motivation behind this initiative is to make the currently frail and segmented healthcare system of India more efficient, devoid of errors, and compliant with global standards of healthcare delivery. The several advantageous implications of such a system come on the backs of privacy concerns that can affect the more than a billion people.
Implementation of Aadhar will rebuild the communication gaps between the various stakeholders in the healthcare system – such as the insurance companies, doctors, patients, pharmacies, etc.
Such a system will ensure that all necessary parties, even in the most remote regions of the country, will always have access to the same comprehensive medical records. Patients will no longer have to lug around giant stacks of paper, and physicians will cut down on redundancies and errors in testing and medicating, insurance companies will streamline the claims process, and pharmacies will be able to dispense the correct medications promptly.
Narendra Modi, the current Prime minister of India, said that “I dream of a digital India where quality Healthcare percolated right up to the remotest regions powered by e-healthcare.”
The use of Aadhar can also have macro-level benefits by tracking the origins and patterns of disease proliferation. Nandan Nilekani, in his book, Rebooting India, talks about how of Aadhar can aid in pinpointing the sources of diseases, patters in transmission, and more importantly, how the government can use this information to employ the limited workforce and medical resources most efficiently.
Rolling out such intricate digital solution in a country with poor tech infrastructure and superficial privacy laws has given rise to significant privacy concerns. Human rights and civil liberty activists are troubled that this new system will enhance the government’s ability to spy on people and monetize the Aadhar data by selling it to corporations. The activists are also fearful by the government’s inability to safeguard this information from hackers.
Just early this month, 250 million vehicle registration information, the many thought was private information, was sold by the Ministry of transport for use in the commercial arena. In February 2019, because of lack of authentication security, and Indian gas company leaked the Aadhar information of 6.8 million people.
According to Apar Gupta, the executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, “Aadhar is becoming a 360-degree surveillance tool”. Without the appropriate investment in tech infrastructure and passing of strict privacy laws, the potential good that Aadhar can do within the healthcare sector will not come to fruition.