Taking medical facilities to far-flung areas, the Indian Railways have decided to expand their telemedicine network across the country. “Currently available in 18 places including Rangia, Badarpur, Guwahati, Sonpur, Ratlam, Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Vadodara and Rajkot, the telemedicine facility will soon be accessible in about 20 more places in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka and Goa” said a senior railway official. Implemented by Konkan Railway, telemedicine project is the use of electronic communication and information technologies to provide health care when distance separates medical specialists from the patient. It also includes educational use of these technologies such as distance learning of health subjects. Though rail connectivity has been established in far-flung and remote areas, proper medical facilities have not reached these areas yet. “We are trying to establish telemedicine facilities where medical facilities are not upto the optimal level. There are no equitable health care services with availability, accessibility, affordability posing major concerns,” said the official. Therefore to bring specialist care to the doorstep of the railway beneficiary stationed at distant centres, it has been decided that telemedicine facility should be made available in all the zonal railways at various levels in a phased manner, said the official. “One can examine, diagnose, seek specialist opinion, treat and cure the patient effectively through telemedicine system,” said a Konkan Railway official. Innovative technologies have brought a paradigm shift in delivery of health care. With the rapid growth of Internet, transmission of all types of health data, including web transfer of text and audio-video images through dedicated optic fibre cable has improved accessibility to specialists opinion from remote places. “We are in the process of setting up telemedicine facility at Cuttack in Orissa and Ranchi in Jharkhand shortly,” said the official. Talking about the importance of telemedicine, the official said “specialist health facilities are concentrated in urban areas but one can reach out to remotest areas through telemedicine by using electronic communication and Information Technology”. “Efficiency of operations is pure and simple. For uncomplicated checks of patients who are doing well, travel is a complete waste of time and money. For complicated cases, one will need to travel but telemedicine technologies can reduce the number of trips,” he said. Sonpur, Hajipur and Danapur in East Central Railway have already established telemedicine facilities while six places in North Eastern railway and North Frontier Railway are soon going to introduce the facilities. The telemedicine system would help railways not only to have a uniform and proper network of various hospitals, health units but also have a unified repository of clinical data.

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