Author: Priyanku Sharma, Fellow, YES Global Institute
India is slowly but steadily progressing towards Universal Health Coverage. India’s National Health Policy 2017 envisions Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. 1.5 lakh such centres are being opened to bring health care system closer to the homes of people. The recently announced ‘National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS)’ to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries, once implemented, will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. With such percentage of India’s population at stake, accurate patient identification and securing of medical records become a matter of paramount importance, giving rise to a need for a mature ecosystem for biometrics devices and solutions in India.
India’s biometrics market stood at USD 778 million in 2016 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 26% through 2022. Rapid penetration of internet as well as smartphones and the vis-à-vis rise in demand for security and protection against identity theft, coupled with the growing number of government initiatives in this area are crucial driving forces leading to this growth.
The existing and potential application of biometrics in Healthcare is enormous, ranging from improving the security and privacy of patient information and medical records, reducing healthcare fraud, providing secure access to emergency medical information, to enabling compliance with government mandates. Use of biometrics in hospitals and other healthcare centres plays a significant role in improving patient safety allowing patients to be identified accurately, ensuring correct treatment to the right patient and elimination of the risk of duplicate medical records.
Biometrics-based patient identification and management medical records also has an enormous life-saving role to play in facilitating organ donation by streamlining organ donor registry and serving as a proof to convince reluctant family members of an organ donor. Karnataka has already made Aadhaar mandatory for people pledging to donate organs.
Biometrics is at a sweet-spot of proliferation in India thanks to an increasing demand for biometric enabled devices and services. As more and more adoption of biometric devices and applications take place in the country, the prices of biometric hardware and software will fall further, opening a largely untapped market for biometric devices and applications in India.
As India leapfrogs into a digital future with the world’s largest biometric identity database—Aadhaar – the country stands at the cusp of a never before opportunity for biometrics adoption in India. With biometric devices already being deployed in diverse areas in India ranging from law enforcement, local security, travel and immigration sectors, among others, the time has come for India’s Healthcare sector to give Biometrics its due recognition. The National Health Protection Scheme – touted as a “cashless, Aadhaar-enabled scheme”, is most certainly going to give a major fillip to the further evolution of the biometrics ecosystem in India.