On the back of successful launch of its “e-gram” initiative, under which villages have been offered broadband connectivity, the Gujarat government’s health department has announced an e-medicine scheme for rural areas. The programme entails offering online and telemedicine facilities to villagers. “We are waiting for the panchayat department to cover all 18,000 villages in the state under the e-gram initiative. Once this is done, we are planning to use the broadband connectivity to initiate an e-medicine programme wherein we will set up e-cardio testing and e-diagnosis facilities. All villages will have these facilities over a period of two years,” said state Health Minister Jay Narayan Vyas. The department will install web cameras and other infrastructure for distant diagnosis. “Through video conferencing, doctors at a distant hospital will be able to diagnose the villagers for basic ailments and prescribe medicines online. The printout of the prescription will be available at the community service centres set up by the department,” said Vyas. Of the total Plan outlay in the state budget for 2008-09, 4 per cent is for the health sector. This was an increase of 46 per cent over last year, said Vyas. The government will also train local panchayat officials in running online health centres. The state is also encouraging medical practitioners to set up clinics in certain identified blocks in rural areas. “The government will provide a grant of Rs 74 lakh for medical practitioners who are willing to open clinics in certain identified blocks in rural areas,” he added.