• Home
  • »
  • Press Room
  • »
  • News

News - 2008

Outlook Business - 03 May 2008 - Pharma and Healthcare - Private Clinics

Remote scalpel

Patchy health infrastructure and shortage of doctors in rural areas makes India a perfect ground to push telemedicine

Timely and cost-effective intervention in healthcare is a mirage for most of India’s poor, around 72% of who live in its nearly 638,600 villages. It is also a Herculean task for any government. Patchy infrastructure and an acute shortage of doctors in rural and tribal areas are other irritants. This makes India a perfect case for a telemedicine-intensive healthcare system.

Doc tube : An ophthalmologist watches and guides while his counterpart in another location examines a patient

Telemedicine is a system of remote healthcare delivery, where patients in far-flung areas get access to specialist doctors who examine, monitor and treat them through video conferencing. This system allows for the patient’s medical records to be transmitted to specialists. They can even be stored in an electronic format to be viewed later.

For instance, a heart patient’s electrocardiogram can be sent immediately for an expert view. "This can help save a life, and that is only possible if you have a telemedicine facility with data and voice capability," says Dr RGS Asthana, Head, Telemedicine, Max Healthcare.

"The cost is negligible. It offers the right kind of diagnosis and care," says Mahesh Shetty, Director, Operations, TeleVital, a company that offers telemedicine software.

To give a fillip to telemedicine, Rs 183 crore has been allocated during the 11th Five-Year Plan. This is much-needed money, even with non-governmental efforts in the sector. On an average, a basic telemedicine set-up costs around Rs 40,000. If advanced software and applications are added, this could go up to Rs 4-5 lakh. "Doctors have to be at ease with the technology. It is a great tool and would have great impact in the days to come," says Dr Chandil of Narayana Hrudayalaya’s telemedicine centre.

Telemedicine can also be used for medical education, information gathering, data mining and management of the entire healthcare delivery system. Now, the External Affairs Ministry has come forward to support a 53-city pan-African telemedicine network that will be connected to hospitals in India, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Narayana Hrudayalaya.

There are 258 telemedicine centres, with 215 remote hospitals, including 8 Mobile units, connected to 43 speciality hospitals in India. This is serving the needs of around 300,000 patients.