An ambitious project of the union health ministry, currently in the planning stage, aims at providing health services using telecommunication technology even in remote areas. Apart from providing medical diagnostics and consultation, the e-health project would enable a doctor to examine any patient electronically from several hundred kilometres away and also connect hospitals and health insurance services. Work on the detailed project report is in progress which will lay out the project timeline and outlay.
"A comprehensive document looking at the portfolio of services and technology costs etc is ready to go for approval to the competent authority," said J Satyanarayana, secretary of the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY), who was speaking at an event at a Ficci meet in the capital on Thursday. DeitY, a department of the union ministry of communication and information technology, is providing technical expertise to the Union health ministry project.
The venture is a "mission mode project" (MMP), designed under the umbrella of the larger National e-Governance Programme (NeGP). Earlier MMPs include projects like core-banking and passport seva kendra. The project was approved earlier this year and a document detailing its scope was ready in July. However, its success would depend heavily on the quality of connectivity and internet penetration which is considerably low in India, especially in rural areas.
"The private sector should be involved in a project like this. 1.2 billion citizens cannot be served by the government alone. Players like insurance companies and private hospitals should be connected to ensure delivery of services to citizens," said Satyanarayana. DeitY joint secretary Rajendra Kumar added that the prevalence of Unique Identification Number (UID) would allow integration and inter-operability of hospitals and even easy availability of health records.
Harish Krishnan, director of global policy and government affairs at Cisco India, said the project's implementation can improve with better connectivity in rural areas, where access to medical care is often a problem. "60 per cent of the problem can be solved through telemedicine, and remote instruments like electronic stethoscopes. We have held 64,000 consultations in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and have seen acceptability for these solutions," says Krishnan.
A smaller project along the e-services lines called the Mother and Child Tracking System was implemented earlier this year. As of May 2013, they had registered 4.06 crore pregnant women and 3.3 crore children. However, the focus of the project was only on sending routine SMSes on healthcare to the women registered and those on registration updates to the officers in charge.
"If we are able to launch and implement the MMP in the next five years, in ten years, it can transform health services in the country," said Kumar.Source
Times of India
28 November 2013,
New Delhi, India
by - Kim Arora