Rural Maharashtra Turns to Telemedicine to Help Patients
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05 April 2010
By Pratibha Masand
A few months ago, 21–year–old Ravindra Mokashi, a resident of Vada village in Thane district, was stricken by an almost debilitating pain around his mouth and throat. Ultimately, swelling in the area combined with an inability to swallow even a morsel of food, forced Mokashi to make the long trek to the Thane District Hospital in Thane city. But doctors there were unable to identify what appeared to be a growth near his throat.
It was then that they consulted specialists at KEM Hospital with the help of a telemedicine centre that had been set up at both healthcare centres less than two years ago. Doctors in Mumbai, after studying Mokashi’s case, diagnosed him with a rare condition, schwannoma of hypoglossal nerve, a benign tumour. “We didn’t know if the mass was a normal occurrence or not. So we consulted doctors at KEM. The verdict was that the benign growth had to be operated on immediately,’’ said Dr V Kalwanda, Thane District Hospital. Mokashi underwent surgery on February 15, where doctors removed an almost four–cm–long mass of tumour.
Since the inception of the telemedicine centre at the Thane District Hospital, more than 350 patients have had the good fortune of being diagnosed by specialists without physically relocating to Mumbai or lining up for treatment at state hospitals like JJ and KEM. “There was a time when people would come from the interiors of Maharashtra all the way to Mumbai to get medical care. But that is not the case anymore. Now, doctors are able to reach out to patients in remote areas thanks to technology,” said Sayed Mahedi, state co–ordinator of telemedicine.
“We have set up 31 wellequipped centres in almost all the districts across Maharashtra. Findings are then digitally transmitted to a specialist, and consultation takes place in real time,” said M Manekar, telemedicine programme officer from the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
Take the case of 45–yearold Pandurang Thale, a resident of Karada village, who developed gangrene on his right foot. Doctors realised it was complicated case, when Thale’s fourth toe turned septic. “Doctors sent scans of the foot along with information on the patients medical history. I have suggested that doctors amputate the toe till the second bone,” said Dr Amjad Shaikh, general surgeon from J J Hospital
Tushar Kotwal, the technician at Thane District Hospital, said: “We consult either doctors at J J or KEM. If we get a complex bone case, we send it to KEM as their radiology department is very good, and if it’s a skin complication or a case that requires surgery, we consult J J Hospital. Doctors get back to us the same day. We even get a reply within the hour if it is an emergency,” he said.