Budget 2022: Tele-mental health gets a major boost and other key highlights

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement regarding the decision to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem shows that digital health is an integral part of the government’s health priorities.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine services witnessed accelerated adoption and digital solutions were seen - in many different ways than we could have expected.

The lockdowns and physical restrictions put in place made healthcare organisations, healthcare professionals, and patients realise the importance of digital health solutions like telemedicine. It was expected that Budget 2022 would focus on digitalisation of healthcare services to improve patient outcomes and that’s what the budget has lived up to.

The launch of a national tele-mental health programme has placed health and well-being as one of the key pillars in the government agenda to make India a global healthcare leader.

Telemedicine gets growing attention

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement regarding the launch of the National Tele-Mental Health programme and the decision to create an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem shows that digital health is an integral part of the government’s health priorities.

The pandemic has accentuated mental health problems in people of all ages. On top of that, there's the growing issue of inadequate mental healthcare professionals to meet the increasing burden of mental health issues in the country.

With 9,000 psychiatrists in total, in combination with 700 psychiatrists graduating every year, there are only 0.75 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in India. This is way below the recommended level of at least three psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

Besides, telemedicine makes mental health services more accessible as it helps people with mental health issues avoid stigma, and get treatment in the privacy of their homes.

Given the shortage of mental healthcare professionals, especially in rural India, telemedicine would greatly enhance accessibility for patients requiring psychiatric help.

The increased focus and investment by the government towards health infrastructure and focus on a holistic approach to health is seen as a testimony of the commitment to building stronger health systems in the country.

Open platform for National Digital Health Ecosystem

The launch of the National Digital Health Ecosystem in Union Budget 2022 is a strong step towards fast-tracking the adoption of digital health services and products. With this innovative effort, India's digital health mission will be empowered and it'll allow patients to seamlessly navigate the healthcare system.

The focus on technology-driven, holistic approach to healthcare will help the government create a repository of clinical establishments and healthcare information. This will not only help monitor and report patient updates to the doctor, but also make sure that patients receive proper, timely care.

Early detection and treatment with the help of an established protocol is the best way to treat patients. The utilisation of such detection and treatment protocols is crucial.

The use of pre-approved and safe methodologies can improve the outcome without resorting to costly solutions. The initiative of the national digital health ecosystem is a forward-looking thought on part of the government, especially in times of a pandemic.

The budget has set up a framework for digitising the healthcare ecosystem. The government has encouraged telemedicine through legislation and the promotion of the service. It remains on the sector to use the reforms and innovate.

Telemedicine may be the game-changer for the poor and marginalised sections of society, and provide easily accessible care in remote areas of the country. The focus on strengthening mobile connectivity will further boost the adoption of telemedicine and point-of-care diagnostic services.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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