Interview

‘Modern-day technology enabled us to fight with full might against Covid-19’

Dr Sanjay Mukherjee

Medical Education, Food & Drugs Administration Department (MEDD) of the Government of Maharashtra has played a significant role in the fight against Covid-19 in the state of Maharashtra. Under the leadership of Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, Secretary, Medical Education, Food & Drugs Administration and Cultural Affairs, Government of Maharashtra, the department helped build dedicated Covid-19 hospitals across the states, initiated the world’s largest plasma therapy trial-cum-project -Platina – for severe Covid-19 patients, dramatically increased the testing capabilities in the state and undertook many other well-timed initiatives which were appreciated nationally and internationally. Mukherjee and team had also been coming out with regular guidelines – operational module for management of Covid-19 – which served as a resource for doctors fighting the Covid-19 in the state.

The department leveraged the most of information technology and digital processes to streamline all the operations. These initiatives were taken at an early stage which ultimately helped the MEDD in the overall crisis management, says Mukherjee, in an exclusive interaction with Harshal Y Desai of Elets News Network (ENN).

 

Here are edited excerpts:

In a time of crisis when social distancing was imperative, and frequent meetings for the department to hold various discussions was almost impossible, how did you manage it all? How did you make the most of Information Technology?

Covid-19 Pandemic is the century’s biggest crisis. It has shaken the entire world. Initially case management was in experimental mode, and hence the need for regular, yet non-intrusive reviews was paramount. But as you said, on one hand, while social distancing was to be maintained at all costs, one had to get things done at the same time. And as always, information technology was the remedy and hence we decided to explore all the available options of Information technology and get it implemented at breakneck speed.

Initially we started with Google spreadsheets and WhatsApp groups for data collection and Group video calls for review meetings.

Also read: COVID-19: Role of the laboratory

Nodal officers at each point of care have been trained with specific monitoring formats and standard SOPs for each of the processes have been made. Reporting and its analysis are done on a near real-time basis using IT.

Controlling the spread of Covid-19 requires different stakeholders and organisations to execute hundreds of things together in a synchronized way. How use of technology proved to be crucial in this scenario?

Integration of services and incorporation of day-to-day changes in management were among key challenges. Various portals have been created at the National and State Levels for synchronization of all the services. ICMR New Delhi, MOHFW New Delhi, Public Health Department and Medical Education and Drugs Department all have come up with their own portal.

All the necessary information is now available with a single click of a button.

Did you also develop any mobile application for MEDD personnel or nodal officers? If yes, how was the response?

After starting with web portals we realized that mobile based applications would be more helpful for timely data entry. Some of the information is required from Covid wards where the entry is limited and time is scarce. Hence, we have developed our own mobile application at a breakthrough speed immediately after the pandemic began. The response received for the application is excellent and it has accelerated the work greatly. Now mostly all nodal Officers are using application based data entry and monitoring.

You initiated the world’s largest plasma therapy trial-cum-project – Platina – for severe Covid-19 patients. How does IT or digital mechanisms help you track Plasma Donation processes in the state? What were the advantages of live tracking that you noticed over a period of time?

Platina is a life saving project. It has 4 components:

1. The Platina trails, that is the use of Convalescent plasma as therapy for severe COVID19 cases.

2. Creation of Plasma Banks across 21 Medical Colleges

3. Plasma Collection and Donor listing, essentially an outreach program

4. Off label use of Convalescent plasma on moderate cases not responding to treatment, as per the advisory of MoHFW.

We are basically carrying forward the motto: “Donate Plasma, Save Lives”. Considering the importance and for maintaining the pace, we have developed our portal for plasma collection and plasma donation.

Every day, the state gets information regarding availability of plasma stock and donation through this portal. A review is carried out based on such feedback.

There was quite a furor over unavailability of beds in the city. Did you also put a digital process in place to monitor live bad occupancy in hospitals across the cities? How was the support from hospitals extended to MEDD in this process?

At a very early stage, we could make out that availability of beds would be a key issue as the pandemic would become more intense. Hence, from an administrative point of view, we have developed live tracking of beds. This is like any ticketing app like BookMyShow, but we have not made it public, lest someone use it to book several beds across hospitals and create an artificial scarcity. This app is therefore visible to the authorities, and covers all Dedicated Covid Hospitals across the MEDD bandwidth. Each Nodal officer at a fixed interval (2 hours) updates the bed position on the portal. So, at state level, we can have a view on availability of beds and bed occupancy.

This leads to better control on patient turnover and hence it’s a time saving as well as resource saving procedure. Also, it enables us to plan creation of added facilities by monitoring the trends better.

Did you face any challenge in implementing an IT application? How could you address the same?

Definitely, it was a learning process for all of us. Filling raw and sensitive patient information into the portal is a tedious job and Mostly doctors are the ones who are filling this information. I must thank the medical fraternity with us for streamlining everything in a trial run of 5 days. The system is fully functional now.

Would you like to share any other information with our readers?

I would like to ask everyone to follow SMS without fail: Social Distancing, Masks, and Sanitisation. I would also advise people to use modern, electronic modes of communication for work as much as possible. And have faith, mankind has faced several challenges, and like every time, we shall overcome this time too.

(Dr Sanjay Mukherjee recently handed over the charge of the Secretary, Medical Education, Food & Drugs Administration.)

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