By HL Bharaj
DEHRADUN, 26 Feb: A health CSR project of THDCIL has brought healthcare facilities to 20 villages of Tehri district through the telemedicine scheme, a pioneering effort in Uttarakhand.
Teleconferencing mediated healthcare facilities were introduced in India by ISRO for the first time in 2001 under which remote hospitals, medical colleges and hospitals were provided facilities via the satellite GSAT-3 INSTA-3A. The project uses telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care from a distance. It has been used to overcome distance barriers and to improve access to medical services in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations.
The first telemedicine centre in Uttarakhand was jointly established in Tehri with the efforts of SEWA-THDC, a sponsored NGO of THDC, and the District Magistrate of Tehri. It was inaugurated by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on 9 February, 2018.
Initially, a toll-free number, ‘555’, was launched by the district administration with support of THDC to provide health care services to the public. Later, the district administration explored using the telemedicine option as a pilot project but it was difficult to implement due to high financial implications. THDCIL stepped in and provided all financial support to implement the project and also helped in its upgradation. So far, SEWA-THDC has spent Rs. 61.74 lakhs on the project, including initial cost of training district health officials in 20 dispensaries.
Each telemedicine centre is connected to a video control room established in the Government Hospital, Tehri. All centres are equipped with a medical kit (briefcase) with Pulse Oxymeter, ECG Machine, WiFi ECG recorder, X-Ray view box, glucometer and other essential tools, a comprehensive pathological kit along with an android tablet with a list of essential medicines and portable hot spot to facilitate diagnosis, data transfer and communication with the district hospital. These centres are run by qualified pharmacists or nurses who act as an interface between the specialist doctor at the control room in Baurari District Hospital and the patient at the village health centre. For further expert opinion this scheme has been connected with AIIMS, Rishikesh, also.
Together, these 20 Telemedicine centres are the lifeline of nearly 100 gram sabhas and impact nearly 56,900 people. Since, the inception of the Telemedicine scheme, a total of 12,121 OPDs has been registered up to January 2019.
The telemedicine scheme has enhanced the sense of proactiveness of the community toward health needs in terms of preventive health instead of the curative approach and gained acceptance among various stakeholders. It has helped in increasing the overall quality of patient care and satisfaction in healthcare services, including regular record of critical ailments, their trends and any new community health related problem. The benefits of telemedicine extend beyond cost and convenience.
In view of the sustained results and the demand to expand it, CMD, THDC, DV Singh reviewed all ongoing health projects under CSR domain and gave the go ahead to additional 20 villages’ healthcare by doubling the telemedicine project as per CSR policy/company guidelines, which may cost another Rs 40 lakhs. The scheme has been very successful for rural people and well appreciated by state and central authorities. This health initiative has provided relief to many hundreds of sick people and because of it, DM, Tehri, Sonika, and Dy GM (CSR) Amardeep Singh, Tehri, have been considered for E-Governance Award by GOI, New Delhi.
The connectivity of all the Telemedicine centres from Tehri control room is also being done with AIIMS, Rishikesh, to extend expert advice of doctors, where this facility is not available at the District Hospital.