Extensive educational infrastructure and resources are required to meet the challenge of producing quality trained personnel in sufficient numbers in the country. While the requirement of having sufficient numbers of quality educational institutions with adequate research facilities cannot be compromised, it is understood that one way of meeting this challenge is to share the existing educational material, equipment and facilities available in the limited number of centres of excellence, with a large number of universities and technical, agricultural and medical institutions throughout the country. In addition, Research and Development activity world-over in various fields, is increasingly being carried out through inter institution even trans-country collaborative approach. This has become necessary owing to the increased activity in computationally intensive and data intensive research problems. The key ingredients in this approach are consultations, data sharing, and resource sharing. It is therefore necessary to create the facilities to enable Indian researchers to undertake such collaborative efforts albeit at reasonable costs. Sharing of R&D infrastructure and data which has been an approach favoured in Europe from the 80’s, and since then adopted by other countries around the world, could thus provide a viable solution for India as well.
In this context the National Knowledge Commission undertook a project to explore the possibility of establishing an efficient and cost effective network design to interconnect all Universities, R&D institutions, S&T institutions; Health service facilities, Agriculture research and extension institutions and Libraries in the country (possibly several thousand nodes) with an access speed of at least 100 Mbps. A white paper outlining the concept and the approach has been prepared by Dr DPS Seth as external expert to the NKC. This report has been extensively circulated amongst relevant stakeholders and feedback and suggestions have been incorporated to finalize the NKC recommendations on this subject, which have now been submitted to the Prime Minister.
Health Information Network
A reliable, swift, real time health data collection system is essential to enhance the quality of health care delivery in India. Moreover, independent growth of health care delivery institutions could create multiple dissimilar standards of health data collection and dissemination which, due to lack of interoperability, would increase the cost of health care enormously. A Health Network therefore is urgently needed to preempt these and other problems facing mature health care systems of the world today.
Recognizing this, the National Knowledge Commission has constituted a Working Group on Health Information Network, composed of experts in the area. The group is in the process of holding extensive discussions and will address issues such as the required IT and Clinical standards, and the regulatory framework that needs to be put in place to facilitate a national level, web-based, secure electronic health information system. The working group held its first meeting on the 21st of August 2006.
Surveys on Health Information Networks
As part of its mandate to improve access to quality health care the NKC is exploring the possibility of creating, at the National level, a web based, secure electronic health care information network. A reliable, swift, real time health data collection system is essential to enhance the quality of health care delivery in India. Independent growth of health care delivery institutions could create multiple dissimilar standards of health data collection and dissemination which, due to lack of interoperability, would increase the cost of health care enormously. Several clinical and IT standards are available at this point such as Health Level 7 (HL7), Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT), Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine (DICOM) etc. A Health Network therefore is urgently needed to preempt such problems that could arise in the near future.
As a first step, the NKC undertook to collect information on the clinical and IT standards that major health care institutions in the country are currently using or wish to use in the future. A questionnaire was circulated to all leading healthcare providers as well as medical colleges and research institutes in the country to gather information on essentially three aspects:
- Number and type of institutions that have Health Information software.
- Clinical and IT standards most commonly used and standards that institutions wish to recommend at the National level.
Problems with specific standards currently in use.