PMJAY to offer teleconsultation to boost coverage
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) health insurance scheme is set to offer teleconsultation services to its patients soon. The move is part of the Centre’s plans to widen the coverage of the scheme and thus reduce the incidence of catastrophic health expenditures, and improve access and quality of health services in the public and private sectors, according to a senior health ministry official.

“This is a major step forward with the teleconsultation services being offered with qualified medical officers and specialists for cases referred from sub-health centres level and primary health centres,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. “A pilot is being done in Gujarat; after the due security audit, it will be rolled out in all functional Ayushman Bharat — Health & Wellness Centres (AB-HWC). Currently, there are more than 21,000 AB-HWCs,’’ he explained.

The Minister added that Ayushman Bharat — among the world’s biggest public healthcare schemes — would also offer teleconsultation through 1.5 lakh centres, which would be operationalised by December 2022.

The operational AB-HWCs have a footfall of almost 1.71 crore patients till date and these centres help to provide an enabling environment to increase the health-seeking behaviour of the poor, contribute towards reducing the out-of-pocket expenditure of the common people, create an assured system of continuous care (through a well-defined referral chain) and help in increasing people’s trust in public healthcare facilities.

Elaborating on the benefits that have accrued from the AB-HWCs, the Health Minister said that more than 1.5 crore people had been screened for hypertension, with more than 70 lakh of them put on treatment; similarly, a population of about 1.3 crores was screened for diabetes and more than 31 lakh people were now on treatment.

The Ministry was also pushing for the expansion of AB-PMJAY, through its system of incentives in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. It was also looking at overhauling the existing health benefits packages and rationalising the cost of the packages to remove any aberrations.

“The Governing Board of the National Health Authority decided that this overhauling is needed to ensure wider private sector participation by empanelling more hospitals to improve access to hospitalisation related care,” said the senior health ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Upgradation of the IT system to make it even more user-friendly, interoperable, secure and state-of-the-art has also been approved,” the official added.

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