Rural areas reap benefits of telemedicine

Quicker access to cardiologists, neurologists or radiologists even in remote places in Karnataka is now a possibility, thanks to advances in telecommunication. Cardiac emergencies like thrombosis are now being attended to by trained doctors at the Chamarajanagar district hospital and at 19 public health centres (PHCs) under the Karuna Trust. For the past seven years, coronary care units with four medical graduates trained at Narayana Hrudayalaya are treating patients at the district hospital. Video-conferencing of patients and doctors across specializations is organized on appointment basis and only those cases needing surgery are referred to city hospitals. So far, 85,595 ECGs and 25,000 teleconsultations have been done, apart from 1,06,000 thrombosis cases by the 56 telemedicine centres in ten states. Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and the PAN-Africa enetwork service which caters to 53 cities in Africa, avail this service. “Around 25 lakh cardiac surgeries need to be conducted in India but only 80,000 are done. With technology , we’re trying to get available medical expertise to remote parts,” said Dr Devi Shetty, cardiologist and chairman, Narayana Health City. “The first four paediatric liver transplantations at our hospitals were conducted through anaesthetic intervention through telemedicine from Children Hospital Philadelphia (CHP). We’ll be conducting robotic prostate surgery through telemedicine from CHP very soon,” he said. Postal service, called Hrudaya Post, is also used. It’s provided at district post offices across the state. Trained postal staff feed the data online (prescription, X-ray , ECG report, angiogram) for specialist consultation and the review report is sent within 24 hours. The patient can collect the report at the counter or, for INR 5, reports are delivered at the doorstep. This gives patients access to second opinion city specialists. Recently, a two-year post-graduate diploma in community cardiology was recognized by IGNOU, to encourage setting up of cardio-clinics . Also, Bangalore-based Tele-radiology Solution reviews scans of 75 hospitals in the US and nine hospitals in Singapore: that’s about 1,000 scans per day. It has also proposed teleradiology services in remote hospitals in the state. Currently, 25 districts, including three taluks – Sagar, Yadavagiri and Maddur – have been connected with telemedicine service with ISRO-aided V-SAT technology in the state. These centres are connected to specialty hospitals in the city: Narayana Hrudayalaya – cardiac and neurological consultation; St John’s Hospital – paediatrics; JSS Medical College, Mysore, – nephrology and Samathavam Hospital – diabetology. Bowring Hospital, Kidwai Memorial and NIMHANS will be connected through telemedicine soon. Dr Prakash, joint director (medical and family welfare), said the government plans to extend telemedicine to all taluk hospitals, through NRHM schemes.


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