Telemedicine with Enormous Breakthrough

K N Bhagat, Founder, OTTET Telemedicine Network, in an interaction with Ekta Srivastava, ENN, shares his vision for better accessibility in healthcare through telemedicine.

What do you see as the benefits of telemedicine and telehealth?
With telemedicine we can have access to quality healthcare not only to the rural population living in far flung areas, but also to the people of urban and semi-urban areas. Telemedicine has a tremendous role, a large and very big role in a heath care delivery system. This bridges the gap of demand supply mismatch doctor wise – facility wise so that medical relief will not be beyond the means of the people. It is the only way to fulfill the constitutional obligation which will not be possible otherwise even within 100 years. It provides vital health statistics and disease indicators which are required for planning and implementing national level health programmes.

How have the patients and the healthcare professionals felt about this tele-health programme?
The patients have felt and expressed their gratitude for the accessibility of quality healthcare which was not possible earlier. This not only saves time but also reduces out of pocket expenditure.
Eminent healthcare professionals have confessed that this is one of the best method for increasing the accessibility to majority of population. This is very convenient for Pre-Surgical Investigation, Post Surgical Follow-ups and Planning.

Telemedicine provides access of the specialist to rural areas. However, because the specialist’s time is still limited to fixed time periods, how can a specialist devote time to telemedicine versus the local immediate needs with which he or she is already overbooked ?
Specialists can provide consultation in their leisure time, with the help of vital statistics and investigation report of the patient that is available with them by accessing the Patient Health Record (PHR) in the telemedicine network. This help the specialists to provide tele-consultation in lesser time, which otherwise would have taken longer time had the patient visited physically. Progress of the disease and subsequent follow-up consultation will also take lesser time as all digitised data like, ECG, CT, MRI is available with the specialists for diagnosis. This not only benefits the patients, but also enriches the knowledge of the general practitioners participating in the consultation with specialists/super specialists.

How telemedicine is bridging the gap between doctors and patients ?
Telemedicine network comprising of trained skilled manpower, even at a remote place, gives the opportunity to the patient to access specialists and super specialists in the network. Because of the use of technology and availability of easy-to-use and highly reliable biomedical devices in the network, telemedicine is able to bridge the gap of demand and supply mismatch, doctor- wise and facility-wise as it readily provides vital parameters and investigation reports so that the doctor can give advice through tele-consultation to distantly located patients.

Strength areas 

Exploring potential of employment generation for creating a mass of semi-skilled productive workers to provide access to healthcare of 51,000 villages
• The project has access to quality healthcare to the rural population living in far-flung areas. It has provided globalisation of medicare along with de-commercialization of medicare
• This is a unique enterprise built on PPP model which is first of its kind in the country in such dimension
• Creating a mass of semiskilled productive health workers to provide healthcare at the doorstep, the project has the involvement of the government partners for design, implementation of network under strict guidelines
• The project aims at generating potential employment among unemployed rural youth and women segment of the society 

Key challenges

• To meet the requirement of bandwidth, partnered with different service providers and created skilled manpower combining Public Health with IT using local unemployed youth
• Selecting and deploying eHealth infrastructure at no costs to government and synergy of overnment, corporate and civil society for sustainable development

What leadership and governance structure supports your organisation, and more specifically, your care management infrastructure ?
OTTET has Admin, IT, Medical, Finance and Legal wings apart from Technical Advisory Board of eminent personalities. School of Telemedicine & Biomedical Informatics, SGPGIMS, Lucknow (National Resource Centre for Telemedicine under Ministries of H&FW and IT under Government of India) is the technical partner for training and standardisation. Connectivity with medical colleges, DHHs and other super-specialist hospitals and group of hospitals of national and international repute exists with periphery so as to provide access to quality healthcare anywhere and anytime.

“Eminent healthcare professionals have agreed that this is one of the best method for increasing the
accessibility. This is very convenient for pre-surgical investigation, post surgical follow-ups and planning”

What are the most critical foundational elements for an organisation embarking on population health management ?
Determination, dedication, selection of right technology and manpower, support of government and financial institutions are the most critical foundation elements for an organisation embarking on population health management.

How does telemedicine fit into the system’s broader care coordination strategy?
Telemedicine is the only branch of medicine where you can ‘Love All and Serve All’, because hospital cannot serve without physical contact. Telemedicine has unlimited potential in bridging the gap doctor wise and facility wise. If consultants do not go to villages, villagers will come automatically through telemedicine.

What do you see as the main challenges in implementing and expanding telemedicine services ?
Lack of awareness amongst the beneficiaries, service providers, professionals, and administrators, Identification of right technology and equipments, Trained and dedicated manpower, Unavailability of adequate bandwidth for virtual consultations, Attitude to serve.

How do OTTET telemedicine and clinical initiatives help meet the long-term objectives of high-quality,longitudinal care delivery?
OTTET establishes viable network and infrastructure through dedicated and trained manpower with the capability of providing quality healthcare in Tele-consultation,Tele-Ophthalmology, Tele-Pathology and Tele-Radiology. It yields rich dividend in protecting and promoting health of the People with long term health benefits.

What steps are you taking to ensure a streamlined patient experience at OTTET Telecare ?
OTTET’s integrated distribution platform across physical and virtual touch points ensures a systematic approach of early identification and link to quality healthcare through tele consultation for preliminary diagnosis, expert opinion, scheduling appointments for hospital visit etc.

What role does mobile plays in the healthcare space?
Mobile is a very versatile equipment for ICT platform. It is the most reliable instrument which can be used in ad-hoc or emergency cases. With the evolution of smart phones and mobile apps, the day is not far when each and every single individual will have access to quality healthcare with just a push of a button.

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