Addressing to healthcare in Kerala is just a SMS away, now. According to Dr Rathan U Kelkar, Director, Kerala State Information Technology Mission (KSITM), the state has introduced Dr SMS, which is a free service that makes health facilities, available to people through the use of mobile. KSITM is an autonomous body which implements e-governance projects for the state government.
According to media reports, all that a user needs to do is type ‘Health’, their pin code, and health concern and send it to a pre-designated number. Within minutes the user receives a SMS listing addresses and phone numbers of health facilities, hospitals and doctors in the area where he or she lives. The service is also available on the Internet at www.drsms.kerala.gov.in.
Dr SMS is one of 20 services that mobile users in Kerala will be able to access when the state launches a “mobile platform” in July this year. “We want to a create a database on mobile,” says Dr Kelkar, adding that the emphasis on using technology was “to get services straight to the doorsteps of people.”
Currently, only eight of Kerala’s 14 districts can use Dr SMS but the service will extend to the remaining six districts by August this year, informed Dr Kelkar. Dr SMS was launched in Kozhikode in February, 2008, when the then District Collecter Dr Jaya Thilak asked the IT department to create a programme that would allow them to inform people about health-related activities through mobile phone.
With 72% of Kerala’s population owning mobile phones, a highly literate population and general awareness about health-related issues, Dr SMS has been extremely popular. “We get about 1,500 hits per day,” said Dr Kelkar, adding that Dr SMS is especially helpful to tourists who may need to access a health facility, but don’t know where to go.
Other health innovations in the pipeline are health alerts in case of a health emergency such as “dengue or diarrahoea outbreaks” and voice-based calls that route the call of a person in need of blood to a registered blood donor. KSITM also plans to upgrade Dr SMS so that it becomes a ‘relevant database’ that addresses localised health issues.