In hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the cellphone coverage is very poor, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has provided satellite links to connect the telemedicine centres to hospitals in Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Puducherry.
Last month, the Union ministry of health signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Isro to expand its telemedicine network to remote places. The 105th, telemedicine hub has been made operational near Sheshnag Lake in Jammu and Kashmir this month, continuing the MoU.
The treatment and consultation is cost effecting and it saves travelling time for people who need to cover long distances to reach at a facility filled hospitals. They also have to spend a lot of money on local accommodation during the treatment period.
“The primary focus of such initiatives is to provide health care accessibility in distant areas, rural communities and pilgrimage centres,” said Jitendra Arora, director (eHealth), health ministry. The facility will also take care of shortage of doctors in these areas.
“The sites are difficult to reach and medical needs of those en route to pilgrimage centres is also cruicial. So it has been decided that the initial tele-health services will be made operational in the field of medicine, orthopaedics, respiratory and cardiology disciplines,” Arora added.
The ministry also plans to restore some of the nodes that had shut shop over time. “Close to 400 nodes that were initially planned but only about 100 could be sustained. Now that telemedicine facilities are picking pace, it would be wise to revive as many as possible,” he said.
All established telemedicine nodes consist of a VSAT system, videoconferencing equipment and telemedicine software along with diagnostic instruments, such as the ECG machine and an X-ray scanner.
Staff at these nodes will examine the patients’ basic details, register them for consultation and take their vital stats and send the data to the specialist node via satellite. The doctor at the specialist node will then examine the case after which a tele-consultation appointment can be scheduled.
During tele-consultation, a doctor can ask paramedic staff to recheck the vital stats, which will then be transmitted in real time to the specialist node. The specialist will provide the diagnosis/instructions via telemedicine software.