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Times of India
17 June 2010
By Writankar Mukherjee
Kolkata, India

With 3G, Remote Diagnosis & Treatment of Patients will become a Norm
Mobile healthcare may soon become a reality
IT may still be early days, but mobile phone companies are now keen to power their shiny gizmos to deliver healthcare solutions. Leading handset brands Nokia and BlackBerry, a clutch of telecom operators and value-added service developers are collectively betting on possibilities of using mobile phones for diagnostic and treatment support, remote disease monitoring, health awareness and communication.

The mobile telephony industry feels the potential is enormous in India, as there are more than 600 million people who are currently using cellphones, and some 20 million get added every month. “It’s a great opportunity in a country like India,” said India’s ace cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty. “Now, with 3G, there are possibilities of remote treatment and diagnosis of patients through mobile phones. This will become mainstream in another twothree years,” he said.

Mr Shetty, a pioneer in Indian tele-medicine, plans to connect mobile phones in remote locations to deliver advanced healthcare. He has been doing so with satellitelinked networks, but now plans to move to the mobile network as it will reduce the huge costs involved and allow his medicos to move from place to place. “The trials will start soon,” he said.

Earlier this month, a Mumbaibased medical equipment company Maestros Mediline Systems rolled out an ECG application along with Vodafone for Black-Berry handsets. Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital has already adopted the system whereby doctors will be able to remotely access patients’ ECG and heart performance reports. “The utility factor of such applications will have a huge demand in rural areas,” said the spokesman at Research In Motion India, the famed makers of BlackBerry smartphones. The company plans to roll out a few more such applications.

Nokia, the world’s largest handset vendor, recently ran a pilot project in Karnataka, along with the Manipal University, for Nokia HealthRadar, its real time system to track the spread of disease. This allows healthcare professionals to easily report disease data, which is then analysed, and the final report sent to the handset of the doctor and authorities. “Mobile solutions hold a tremendous potential for changing the way we live,” said Nokia India director (corporate affairs) Ambrish Bakaya. Incidentally, Nokia is also successfully running a project to prevent the spread of dengue in the Amazons using the mobile phone.

Healthcare applications are also becoming popular in the application stores of the handset vendors. While there are more than 280 health applications in the Black-Berry App World, Nokia and Google Android’s application stores are also getting loaded with such applications. Such apps can turn the mobile phone into a massager, control calorie intake, help to quit smoking, or even turn the phone into a GPS watch which is useful in exercise. Spice Digital has rolled out one such application on pregnancy with Airtel. It is now looking at an application which hospitals can use and send medical advice and reminders to patients, said CEO Saket Agarwal.

Shot in the Arm

With more than 600 m mobile users & 20 m getting added every month, India offers a huge potential, say experts

According to a study, the maximum number of mobile health programmes are running in India

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