This is my submission for http://www.apollohospitals.com/cutting-edge.php
An Arabian saying goes "He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything". Unfortunately in a country like India, advances in healthcare are still available to the privileged few residing mainly in the urban area but majority of the population live in rural area. Further, this is compounded by poor medical facilities in rural and inaccessible areas, reluctance of doctors to serve in rural areas, etc. Thus, there is little hope for the larger population of this country for getting quality health care without having A silent revolution happening in the health sector of the country is Telemedicine, by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It hopes to bridge the gap between haves and have not’s as far as healthcare is concerned.
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology for medical diagnosis and patient care. It involves transfer of electronic medical data (i.e. live video, high resolution images, voice, text and patient records) between the “Patient end” and the “Specialist end” using the combination of video, computer and network communication technologies. The elements of a telemedicine network are viz., patient end; specialty end and communication link. A telemedicine system consists of a computer with relevant medical software and connected to medical diagnostic instruments like ECG, X-ray machine or an X-ray Scanner for scanning the X-ray images. The digitized images and medical reports of the patient are sent to the specialist hospital, which may be thousands of kilometers away, through a satellite VSAT system or terrestrial links. The specialist in the comfort of his hospital is able to examine the reports, diagnose, interact with the patient and suggest appropriate treatment during the video conferencing session through the telemedicine system. Tele-consultation is a great boon in post-operative care for patients coming from remote areas because money and time expended on travel is avoided. Telemedicine has its own limitations and it cannot be used in cases where any disease which requires clinical examination of the patient cannot be diagnosed by telemedicine eg skin disorders, pshychiatric disorders, etc. Telemedicine technology as of now in India, has been adopted in the following areas:-
ISRO has always been endeavouring to reach space technology to the grassroots. In India, telemedicine started during 2001 linking Apollo Hospital, Chennai with the Apollo Rural Hospital at Aragonda village in Chittor, Andhra Pradesh. The next one implemented during March 2002 linked Naryana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore with Chamrajnagar District Hospital and The Vivekanada Memorial Trust Hospital at Saragur, both districts being located in Karnataka. Presently, ISRO’s Telemedicine Network stretches to around 100 hospitals all over the country with 78 remote/rural/district hospitals/health centres connected to 22 speciality hospitals located in the major cities. The thrust of ISRO’s Telemedicine Programme are as follows:
- Remote/Rural Hospitals and Speciality Hospitals.
- Continuing Medical Education (CME) – training for doctors & paramedics in rural/remote areas, from a higher level hospital/institution.
- Mobile Telemedicine Units
- Disaster Management Support.
The yeoman services rendered by ISRO’s telemedicine network in remote areas like Kargil and Leh in the North, offshore islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshdweep, as well as interior parts of Orrisa, Karnataka, Kerala, Chattisgarh, J&K, North East is noteworthy. As per ISRO’s website, in Chamrajnagar telemedicine has cut down treatment cost by 81%. Further it is stated that in case of remote off-shore islands, this is much more significant both to the patient and the Government administration. In such cases, not only the patients have the cost saving but can be provided with quick and timely medical aid. Telemedicine has also been used since 2002 at Pampa, the foothills of Sabarimala Shrine, Kerala and during Tsunami in Andaman Island and Car Nicobar.
In India healthcare is a state subject and the larger application of telemedicine to benefit of the country would depend on the respective state government’s initiative in grabbing and implementing this technology. Telemedicine with passage of time will become more and more a refined technology. Its progress depends on application of mind by the concerned. High cost of equipments; high cost of maintenance; high training cost and poor connectivity are some of the impediments in telemedicine gaining greater acceptance in India. The field of Information and Communication technology is making giant strides consistently and this over a period of time should result in reduction in cost of hardware and software which will make will make telemedicine systems simpler and affordable.
It is seen from ISRO’s website that they have envisioned the development of a “HEALTHSAT”, an exclusive satellite for meeting the healthcare and medical education needs of India at large. This satellite, when deployed along with wireless and terrestrial communication links, can bring a large change in augmenting the present healthcare delivery system in the country. Telemedicine when fully implemented can be the mythical Sanjeevini to people living in remote/rural areas. It can enlarge the gap between life and death across the length and breadth of this country. We require untiring efforts from all the stake holders to make India a healthy country.
I would like to state that I have relied a lot upon material collected from ISRO website and their press releases.