THD NewsDesk, NEW DELHI: The Draft Health Data Management Policy has faced considerable backlash by the All India Organization of Chemists & Druggists (AIOCD) over the security risk it poses for patients. AIOCD has expressed serious reservations against the draft policy that was formulated to digitize health records by 2020.
The Government plans to create a unique I.D. for doctors, healthcare practitioners, health facilities and patients to enable easy access to personal medication data by private stakeholders through the policy. Additionally, the association has submitted its recommendations for ensuring that physician-patient privilege is not infringed upon, along with feedback to government authorities on the same. Physician-patient privilege protects the patient’s legal right to medical confidentiality to prevent their communications from being used against the patient in court.
Rajiv Singhal, General Secretary, AIOCD made a strong case against the policy by stating, “We have submitted our suggestions and recommendations on the draft policy of Health Data Management to PM Modi and Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO, National Health Authority. In principle, we support Government’s decision that customers and patients should receive the benefits of technology and digitalization in health care services. However, through our submission we have highlighted that it is equally important to ensure that effective healthcare and patient-doctor-pharmacist confidentiality is not jeopardized in the haste of adopting technology. From a reading of the policy, it is evident that once the policy is implemented it shall have far-reaching consequences on the provision of healthcare services and the existing statutory framework i.e., the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Pharmacy Act, 1948 and Rules and Regulations framed thereunder.”
“Moreover, due to COVID-19 the consumer protection groups, associations, NGOs, voluntary organizations etc. which are involved in healthcare, data protection, privacy rights etc., will not be able to meet and discuss the repercussions of policy,” he added, expressing his concern at the restricted scope of discussion and deliberation on the policy.
RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY AIOCS
President of AIOCD, J.S. Shinde has alleged that the current draft policy strategically facilitates “illegal surveillance” and therefore, has submitted its report with a list of suggestions to the Government.
- Implementation of safeguard mechanism for encryption of sensitive data.
- Publishing of the draft policy in as many regional languages as possible.
- Patients should be allowed to opt for digitalization of their data voluntarily.
- Authorities with which the data would be shared should be specified.
AIOCD President further said in his statement that the objective of Government behind this policy is very ambiguous and does not seem to serve a fruitful purpose. For the proper implementation of the system, Data Protection Laws should be in place first. Physician-patient confidentiality can not be compromised as a person’s medical history contains sensitive data, and it should be made sure by the Government that the right is not transgressed. The letter also proposes the enactment of necessary amendments in the Drug Act and allied laws. Similar resistance from the public and organizations like AIOCD has pressurized the Government to grant an extension up to September 21, 2020, before the Health Data Management Policy is finalized.