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Telemedicine: Bridging Delivery Gap in Rajasthan Healthcare

Surendr SinghHealthcare is one of the most important determinants of economic sustainability and growth of a country. Being in the field of telemedicine for past 17 years has given me a lot of experience and insight into the population requirement, I have observed that there is a tremendous opportunity for telemedicine in rural areas, writes Surendr Singh, Manager, Telemedicine Department.

Telemedicine in Rajasthan started in 2006 through an initiative of the Government of Rajasthan and ISRO. First connectivity was made between Jhalawar and Sawai Man Singh Hospital in Jaipur to provide super medical tele-consultations to poor villagers while sitting at remote locations. This project was operated by ISRO through INSAT satellite network.

Under the dynamic leadership of Dr ML Swarankar, in order to improve the health status of people by providing them primary and advanced healthcare, Mahatma Gandhi University of Medical Sciences & Technology (MGUMST) started telemedicine services in 2014 with four centres at Karol, Sikar, Rawatsat and Alwar to deliver specialty and super specialty medical services to rural areas through the State Telemedicine Department. MGUMST is the Rajasthan’s first private medical university to dispense telemedicine services in rural area.

The telemedicine centre at the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital (MGH) is the hub for all tele-consultations in Rajasthan. In 2014, the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital was designated as the nodal centre for all district hospitals by the Government of Rajasthan. With the passage of time, a number of telemedicine nodes connected to the Mahatma Gandhi Hospital Telemedicine Centre.

At presently, MGH made available their tele-consultation at 120 centres in various districts, satellite hospitals and community health centres CHC’s of the state. The tele-consultations were slow to come but now range from 150 to 200 consultations per day. Managing 100 nodes consultations is an Herculean task.

In a tertiary care hospital with a heavy rush in the OPDs availability of consultants is a huge problem. Hence, we have now fixed OPD days for specialities in demand dermatology, neurology, orthopedics, nephrology, urology, cardiology, endocrinology and oncology are frequently consulted. There is a lot of demand for the dermatologist, and to meet this demand the hospital has made arrangements for two days in a week.

Challenges:

Healthcare is one of the most important determinants of economic sustainability and growth of a country. Being in the field of telemedicine for past 17 years has given me a lot of experience and insight into the population requirement, I have observed that there is a tremendous opportunity for telemedicine in rural areas.

In villages where no healthcare facility exists, people spend out-of their pocket to avail speciality health services which are generally based in the city health centres. Managing accommodation and logistics also adds to their out-of-pocket expense burden.

Telemedicine is becoming the cheapest and fastest way to bridge the gaps between urban and rural healthcare. Keeping in mind the vast progress of India in the field of information and communication technology, telemedicine can help the distant edges of the country access quality healthcare services.

As far as the objective of this project is concerned it is reaching the rural masses of Rajasthan. There has been significant progress in the telecommunication infrastructure in the country. Access to broadband internet connectivity in rural areas is increasing rapidly and there is a huge increase in understanding of internet and learning pattern.

The internet is playing an important role in providing cost-effective healthcare for the widespread populations of medical science and information and communication technology. Consistency in the availability of healthcare is being sustained by continuous efforts from both government and private sectors.

Government, NGOs and some private companies are trying to overcome the technology barrier and provide affordable and special healthcare through telemedicine.

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