July 2008

NEWS REVIEW – INDIA

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vCustomer to counsel health issues

vCustomer Corporation recently announced its partnership with Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh (JSK) to provide call centre support and counseling on reproductive health, family planning and infant health.

The service, available primarily in English and Hindi, would be beneficial to those people who want telephonic adviceparticularly adolescents, newly married and about-to-be married couples.

All calls in India to the number 6666-5555 will be routed to the centralised vCustomer contact centre based in Delhi. Under the initiative, all call centre agents will be trained by medical professionals to provide counseling.

The initial launch would provide support to callers from Delhi and NCR including Ghaziabad, Bulandshahar, NOIDA, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Mewat.

The initiative has received technical support from the National Informatics Centre (NIC), Nasscom and the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) in India.

Speaking on the occasion, JSK utive Director Shailaja Chandra said, “The idea of unique call centre came from medical practitioners who felt that even basic knowledge about reproductive health was very poor.”

Helplines cannot address the width of subjects on which people need information. Hence JSK has started this initiative”. Customer CEO Sanjay Kumar said that this partnership has given the company a chance to support JSK by providing call centre services to reach a wider audience and to promote the extremely sensitive and critical issue of population stability in India.

ISO certification to be must for ESI hospitals

ESI hospitals providing healthcare facilities to workers covered under the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) will be soon required to have ISO certification. Minister of state for labour and employment Shri Oscar Fernandes has said that the certification will be made mandatory so that hospitals provide world class medical facilities to workers of both organised as well as unorganised sector.  In the first conference of revenue officers of ESIC, the minister said ESIC revenue officers should dedicate themselves to the cause of healthcare of workers and should aim at increasing the number of beneficiaries to at least 4 crores, same as EPF members.

The doctors and staff at these hospitals will be given special training to meet the shortage of medical personnel in the country.  The latest figures show that during 2007-08, the scheme was implemented in 37 new areas covering nearly 98,000 workers. The total number of beneficiaries were 3.94 crore. During the year, contribution income increased to a record high of INR 3,249 crore against the target of INR 2,450 crore, thereby registering an increase of INR 800 crore which is 32.61% higher than the target, Ms Pillai said. The motive of this conference was to interact with field workers and make them aware about their role in the implementation of policies and programmes of the ESIC and the ministry.

RG Stone signs on Akhil Systems’ HIS System

R.G. Stone Urological Research Institute, a Super Specialty Urological Research Institute setup for providing specialised treatment for Lithotripsy, Endourology, Holmium Laser, Laparoscopic Surgeries and Diagnostics has recently signed on a new Hospital Information System.

As they are setting up their chain of Urology Centres all across India and abroad and managing all the centres from Head office becomes quite cumbersome, they have selected Akhil Systems Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi (a company with vast experience in implementing their specialised HIS Software Solutions in hospitals) to connect all the Centres through VPN and implement their HIS System for better management of their Centres through Akhil HIS System.   Akhil Systems has designed and implemented for R G Stone a new Multi Location HIS System to work in Centralised Server environment and connecting all the Centres with the Head Office through VPN Network. The software enables RG Stone to manage all their centers from Head Office in on-line environment.

The system provides Patients Statistics, Patient Medical Records, Revenue & Collection of each Centre and cumulated Revenue and Collection for all the Centres for better analysis and management planning.

Ericsson, Apollo Hospitals bring healthcare to rural India

Ericsson and Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF), a part of the Apollo Hospitals Group, have taken a major step towards helping bridge the digital divide in rural India by laying the foundation for the introduction of telemedicine delivered using HSPA technology, which will enable the provision of affordable and accessible healthcare to millions of people in remote areas.

More than a million people, predominantly women and children, die each year in India because of a lack of healthcare. A further 700 million people have no access to specialist healthcare, as 80% of specialists live in cities. At the same time, the teledensity of India is increasing at a phenomenal rate. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Ericsson and ATNF will enable them to work together to educate people and to publicise, promote and implement the use of telemedicine deployed as an application over broadband-enabled mobile networks.

ATNF will provide expertise in telemedicine, in the form of applications that provide instant medical advice remotely over the network. This will increase access to quality healthcare once the HSPA network is in place, and sets the stage for the creation of a stable ecosystem, based on WCDMA/HSPA technology, to support a range of innovative services.  This agreement is part of Ericsson’s support for the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, while improving education, health and gender equality. Ericsson has been working on several initiatives to demonstrate the use of telecoms in healthcare provision.

Pvt hospitals treating poor for free can claim duty exemption

Only those private hospitals and health centres who provide free treatment to a certain percentage of poor patients are entitled to customs duty exemption on sophisticated imported medical equipment, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Coming down heavily on the private hospitals, a bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and H S Bedi said: “We are also conscious of the large scale misuse of the medical equipment imported under the exemption notification… it is essential that the authorities regulatory monitor the use of the equipment.”

These observations were made on a petition filed by Andromeda Foundation India Pvt Ltd which challenged the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s judgement that held the company was liable to pay customs duty on the imported equipment.

While upholding the High Court ruling, the apex court said that it was incumbent on Andromeda to follow the guidelines designed to ensure that the medical equipment imported at concession terms was being properly utilised.

The private hospital had imported equipment for the purpose of conducting diagnostic tests and treatment of patients with specific andrological problems in view of the Central government notification dated 1 March, 1988 that exempted importers from customs duty on equipment imported for specified purposes.

However, the Director, Medical Education of Andhra Pradesh, had inspected Andromeda and submitted in its report to Secretary to the Government, Health, Medical & Family Welfare Department, Andhra Pradesh that the private hospital was not providing free services to the poor patients in accordance with the terms of exemption in the notification.

Infosys to improve healthcare access in rural regions

Infosys Technologies Ltd has announced that it has completed deployment of a patient management tool for an award-winning health information technology (IT) initiative to improve healthcare access for rural and underserved patients. Infosys collaborated with the University of New Mexico (UNM) to improve patient outcomes by designing and implementing a Web application that facilitates real-time flow and access of interoperable clinical data among participating health providers, as part of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes).

Project ECHO’s Web-based patient management tool has an intuitive web interface that efficiently and securely integrates patient data in real-time from all participating health providers, leveraging Infosys’ Healthcare Integration & Collaboration solution. This is expected to enhance case-based educational experiences by facilitating more informed care-management decision making and continuous training of rural physicians. The clinician-centric tool also delivers a platform for physicians to stay connected with patients throughout the treatment, ensuring better prognosis and improved patient compliance.

Responding to a pressing need to improve Hepatitis-C treatment among rural communities, the UNM Health Sciences Center and the Departments of Health and Corrections developed Project ECHO, funded by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Since June 2004 the project has conducted 205 Hepatitis-C Knowledge Network clinics and provided 2,316 consultations for patients. The Web-enabled software will allow Project ECHO to expand to multiple chronic diseases and health conditions such as HIV, cardiac conditions, mental health disorders, diabetes, autism, substance-abuse disorders, among others. In addition, since the system is delivered via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, it reduces potential technology barriers that previously existed in rural health clinics. The SaaS model is enabled through Infosys’ Healthcare Integration and Collaboration solution, an enterprise Service-Oriented Architecture-based integration solution.

US launches INR 580 m health initiative

The US on Thursday launched a INR 580 million initiative to improve maternal and child health in India, with a focus on Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.  The Maternal and Child Health Sustainable Technical Assistance and Research Initiative (MCH STAR) will work to accelerate the resource mobilisation of India’s major programmes like the Notational Rural Health Mission and Integrated Child Development Services.

“Each activity will respond directly to the programme and policy needs of Jharkhand and Uttar Pradseh. It will demonstrate policy and programme successes that can help others to emulate evidence based practices.”

The Indian government has some good programmes, and USAID will work with the ministry of health and family welfare to bring better success.

“We need an extended reservoir professional research, public health and technical assistance institutions working at global standards that can support government programmes,” said Naresh Dayal, secretary in the health ministry.

“Our country is growing well in almost all fields but our health indicators are poor. It’s a shame to talk at international podiums about Indian’s health parameters. We are trying to better the situation,” he said at the function. Currently, of every 1,000 kids born in the country, nearly 60 die. Similarly, 301 mothers succumb to pregnancy related complications after or during childbirth.

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