The impressive progress in the health sector, recognized globally, underscores Bangladesh’s commitment to advancing public health and responding effectively to challenges, as evidenced by its exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic
In a groundbreaking move towards modern healthcare, the government of Bangladesh is implementing a digital health card initiative to streamline healthcare services for all citizens. The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) is overseeing the project, which involves storing patients’ treatment information in a centralized digital database. Each citizen will receive a digital health card containing details such as doctor’s appointments, health conditions, and test results. This card aims to eliminate the need for preserving physical prescription and test files.
You Can Also Read: Bangladesh’s Healthcare Metamorphosis in Full Swing
Initially, the health cards will be distributed in a pilot project in Gopalganj’s Muksudpur and Manikganj’s Singer Upazila, focusing on government hospitals. The cards will later be extended to private hospitals and medical clinics. The cards will be prepared in conjunction with national identity and birth registration cards, creating a comprehensive health profile for each individual.
The DGHS has signed agreements with the Election Commission and the Registrar General’s office to obtain the necessary information for the health cards. The initiative aims to provide a unique health ID to everyone, facilitating seamless access to medical information across different healthcare institutions. The ‘Shared Health Record’ platform is being developed to share and store health-related information between government and private institutions. The process of transferring patients from one hospital to another will be simplified with the introduction of these health cards.
“We want everyone to have a unique health ID. The doctors will provide treatment for patients following the health card. When they move from one hospital to another, they won’t have to carry documents for check-ups and old prescriptions as all information will be on the cards,”-Shahadat, Director, MIS of DGHS
Health Card Issuance Process
The DGHS announced the establishment of a dedicated website for the issuance of health cards, allowing individuals to obtain the card by completing online registration on the site. For those unable to register online, individuals can sign up for the card at DGHS-approved public and private hospitals. Individuals below 18 must present a copy of their NID or birth registration card when visiting hospitals, which will have designated counters for the free distribution of health cards to all patients.
Hospitals and health organizations with existing automation will be interconnected through a ‘Shared Health Record,’ assigning each citizen a unique health ID number. All healthcare information, including birth and death records, will be securely stored in the digital database.
Patients can receive health tips and diagnostic reports via email by entering their health card number into the system. With all individual information stored virtually, patients can conveniently schedule hospital appointments from the comfort of their homes.
The DGHS emphasized that initially, health cards will be distributed to all government health organizations and hospitals nationwide, with government-approved private hospitals also set to benefit from this service in the future.
Global Digital Health Cards Revolution
Estonia – Pioneering the Digital Health Revolution
Estonia stands out as a global leader in the adoption of digital health cards. Since 2002, the Baltic nation has been implementing its groundbreaking eHealth system, allowing citizens to access their health records through secure digital IDs. This initiative has streamlined healthcare services, offered a comprehensive overview of medical history and facilitating efficient communication between healthcare providers.
Singapore – Smart Health Passport
Singapore introduced the HealthHub initiative in 2018, featuring a digital health passport accessible through a mobile app. This platform provides users with personalized health information, vaccination records, and even allows for appointment bookings and prescription refills.
Israel – The Green Pass for Health
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel introduced the Green Pass, a digital health certificate. This pass, accessible through a mobile app, signifies an individual’s vaccination status and recent test results. Israel’s successful implementation demonstrates the versatility of digital health cards in managing public health crises.
China – Health Code for Pandemic Control
China implemented a comprehensive health code system during the pandemic, assigning citizens color-coded QR codes based on their health status. This digital system helped manage the spread of COVID-19 by regulating access to public spaces and transportation
European Union – The Digital COVID Certificate
The European Union introduced the Digital COVID Certificate to facilitate safe travel within its member states. This digital health card provides proof of vaccination, test results, or recovery from COVID-19, promoting seamless movement across borders.
United Arab Emirates – Harnessing Technology for Healthcare
The UAE has been at the forefront of adopting digital innovations, including digital health cards. Through the “Sehhaty” app, residents can access their health records, book appointments, and even receive prescription refills. The UAE’s commitment to leveraging technology for healthcare showcases the potential for improving patient outcomes through digital solutions.
Australia – My Health Record
Australia embraced the digital health trend with the My Health Record system. Launched in 2012, this initiative allows Australians to store their medical information securely online. It enhances healthcare coordination, reduces paperwork, and ensures that healthcare providers have access to critical information when needed.
India – CoWIN Digital Vaccination Certificate
India introduced the CoWIN platform for COVID-19 vaccination, issuing digital certificates to individuals upon vaccination. This digital health card facilitates travel and access to various services while ensuring the authenticity of vaccination records.
These countries have successfully implemented digital health cards, revolutionizing the healthcare landscape. As the world moves towards greater digitization, these pioneers serve as models for other nations seeking to enhance healthcare accessibility, efficiency, and patient outcomes.
Health Progress Scenario in Bangladesh
According to Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Malek, significant progress made in Bangladesh’s health sector over the past decade. In the last three years, approximately 70,000 new personnel have been recruited to enhance healthcare quality, with 20,000 doctors, 30,000 nurses, and 20,000 other health workers appointed.
Efforts to enhance hospital services included expanding 500 upazilas to have modern hospitals with 50 beds, upgrading each district hospital to 250 beds, establishing 22 medical institutes with 500 beds, 37 medical college hospitals with 1000 beds, and establishing five medical universities. Additionally, 14,280 community clinics in remote areas provide 32 types of medicines free of charge, with around 50,000 healthcare providers.
Furthermore, 4,650 Union Health Care Centers offer free medicine, consultation, and delivery of medical services in remote areas. Zahid Malek highlighted the Ministry of Health’s initiatives that have successfully controlled the country’s population growth rate. After independence, the average number of children per married woman dropped from 6.9 to two.
Bangladesh received the MDG award from the United Nations in 2010 for its remarkable success in reducing child and maternal mortality. The vaccination success rate rose from below 2% in 1984 to 92% in 2022. Currently, 92% of 12–13-year-old children are free from tuberculosis, measles, polio, tetanus, and hepatitis. The country, meeting 97% of its needs, exports drugs worth $3.1 billion to approximately 80 countries.
Bangladesh has excelled globally, ranking fifth worldwide and leading in South Asia in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The success is attributed to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s timely and visionary decisions, resulting in vaccinating 90% of the target population with 37 crore doses provided free of cost. To address the pandemic’s impact, ICU beds increased from 578 to 2000, and central oxygen lines expanded from one to 120, eliminating oxygen shortages in hospitals.
Bangladesh’s implementation of a digital health card initiative marks a significant leap towards modern healthcare, streamlining services and fostering seamless access to medical information. Drawing inspiration from global leaders in digital health, the country is poised to enhance healthcare efficiency and patient outcomes. The impressive progress in the health sector, recognized globally, underscores Bangladesh’s commitment to advancing public health and responding effectively to challenges, as evidenced by its exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.