April 23, 2024

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has mandated the compulsory linking of Central Government Health Services (CGHS) beneficiary ID with Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) ID in a move to integrate various government health schemes under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), according to an office memorandum signed by Manoj Goel, Director, CGHS.

“The linking of CGHS ID with ABHA ID shall be mandatory with effect from April 1, 2024, and shall be completed within 30 days by all existing CGHS beneficiaries,” the memorandum stated.

Addressing the need to mandate the linkage of the schemes, a source close to the development said that the move is aimed at creating a digital health identification of CGHS beneficiaries and storing their digital health records under ABDM, bringing various schemes to one platform.

The CGHS scheme provides comprehensive healthcare services to central government employees, pensioners, and their dependent family members. Currently, more than 4.4 million people and 75 cities are covered under this scheme.

Of this number, only 21,362 CGHS IDs have been linked with ABHA ID till April 2, according to information available on the CGHS dashboard.

The ABHA ID or number is a 14-digit number that uniquely identifies a beneficiary in India’s digital healthcare ecosystem. All citizens can open and operate an ABHA account.

Speaking on the implications of linking CGHS with ABHA, Shuchin Bajaj, Founder Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals said that the linking of CGHS and ABHA IDs will help in healthcare accessibility and digital health management.

“By integrating these IDs, the government is aiming to streamline healthcare services and enhance patient identification by facilitating seamless sharing of digital health records across platforms,” he said.

Sunil Rao, Chief Operating Officer, Sahyadri Group of Hospitals, Pune said that such an integration will facilitate the consolidation of digital health records, enabling easier access and management of medical history and treatment data.

“Since the CGHS scheme covers government employees, it will be easier for the government to make it compulsory and achieve their deadline to integrate both IDs,” he added.

Experts, however, have also flagged certain technical challenges and issues relating to privacy that the move can give rise to.

Commenting on the challenges, Bajaj said that the implementation of the linkage program may face technical problems such as data integration issues or system compatibility concerns, which could disrupt healthcare delivery.

“Any disruption or delay in the linking process could temporarily limit beneficiaries’ access to healthcare services or digital health records until the integration is complete,” he added.

Highlighting privacy concerns, Rao added that the government has not made it explicitly clear how digital records will be protected. “While the government has stated that records stored under ABHA ID are properly encrypted and would be protected under provisions of the Digital Protection of Data and Privacy Act, there is no specific guideline to point out the same,” he said.

“Such a linkage would therefore need robust data protection measures and adherence to privacy regulations,” Rao added.

First Published: Apr 02 2024 | 9:04 PM IST