TELEMEDICINE: A solution to the burgeoning healthcare needs to bridge the demand supply gap of patients and healthcare professionals

 

TELEMEDICINE: A solution to the burgeoning healthcare needs to bridge the demand supply gap of patients and healthcare professionals

By: Sanjeeb Kumar Samal

Recently I had been to villages remote to Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha to conduct health camps free of cost under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) scheme of our company. We moved with a team of general practitioners and with medicines. The dates were announced in advance in order to get a good attendance. Normally 100 to 500 patients turned up in each of the health camp. Some familiar patterns of disease prevalence were observed among the patients who attended the health camps. Aged persons with complaints of knee pain would be common phenomena in all the health camps. In one of the camps I was surprised by one observation. The measure of blood pressure of some female patients showed very high value, which to me was unlikely. On seeking a reason for that the doctors told me that the village folks take lot of water dipped rice with high salt in their diet (in eastern part of India intake of watered rice is common by the poor section of populace)  and the salt is causing the elevated blood pressure.  The doctors accompanying used say that lot of patients will be found malaria positive in the health camps considering the environmental conditions of our venues, but so was not the case. I wish this had a correlation with the ongoing National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) which has given clear cut guidelines and tools to eradicate vector borne diseases like malaria, dengue, filariasis and kala-azar. It was a pleasure to see that the pathology technicians in our team would bring along rapid test kit lots from public hospital to detect the vector borne diseases.

I used to think that non communicable diseases (NCDs) are absent in the rural areas in comparison to urban areas. But, the observation I had in that health camp and interaction with doctors did change my perception. The NCDs of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have found their ways into rural heartlands due to urbanization, tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. An epidemiological transition is taking place in the rural areas as well. In fact the Government of India has taken cognizance of the fact and has recently launched the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) in the year 2010.

It’s well known that the NCDs are fast grappling the urban Indian population and simultaneously undeniable that the NCD monster is steadily raising its head in the rural mass as well. This calls for deployment of specialists in the rural areas treat the rising numbers of NCD patients.

The Government led initiatives are slow and usually takes too long time in addressing the disease prevalence and very likely that the status quo will continue in the future. If the Year-2011 reports are any indicator of how things are placed in current scenario, the following table elucidates, out of 19,236 specialist posts 12,301 are in shortfall in the 4,809 total CHCs (Community Health Centre: Secondary health care centers for rural population) of our country

Table: Requirement Vs. Deployment of specialist doctors in CHCs

States

Total CHCs functioning

Required (4 specialists per CHC)

Sanctioned

In Position

Vacant (sanctioned-in position)

Shortfall (required- in position)

Himachal Pradesh

76

304

NA

9

NA

295

Bihar

70

280

280

151

129

129

Assam

108

432

NA

216

NA

216

Orissa

377

1,508

812

438

374

1,070

Uttar Pradesh

515

2,060

2,060

1,894

166

166

Chhattisgarh

148

592

592

82

510

510

Jharkhand

188

752

124

66

58

686

Rajasthan

376

1504

1068

569

499

935

Madhya Pradesh

333

1,332

778

227

551

1,105

Uttarakhand

55

220

210

78

132

142

All India

4,809

19,236

9,831

6,935

3,880

12,301

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: http://www.indiaspend.com/sectors/rural-india-faces-60-shortage-of-doctors

There are seemingly two options to combat the menace.  One is to increase the postings  of medical/paramedical professionals and second is to apply Information & Communication Technology (ICT) to bridge the distance between the doctor and patient in the existing set up.

Telemedicine is considered as the next game changer in healthcare by leveraging electronic & telecommunication advancement to connect the patients and doctors separated by distance. Treatments is possible over video calls, conferencing calls from consultation to tertiary treatments in mental health, dermatology etc. Telemedicine will also be useful in seeking second opinion and providing continued medical education to health care professionals.

Source: ISRO Site

With innovations in the logistics associated around the telemedicine system, issues like lack of awareness, non –affordability, distance from the healthcare centre and fear of falling into the trap of moneymaking private hospitals, which prevent the villagers from seeking quality healthcare can effectively be addressed.

Telemedicine is in a much nascent stage in India. Organizations such as ISRO, SPGIMR Lucknow , PGIMER Chandigarh , Govt. Medical Colleges of Orissa,  Apollo Telemedicine Network Foundation, Telemedicine Society of India and some private tertiary care organizations are taking pioneering steps in promoting telemedicine. Suitable policies by the Government and entry of entrepreneurs will make Telemedicine an acceptable medium of providing healthcare services to larger and underprivileged section of the society.

About the author: Sanjeeb Kumar Samal, an engineer by profession, a healthcare enthusiast and an aspiring healthcare entrepreneur. The author can be reached sk_samal@yahoo.com


Auditing of the unused budgetary allocations for Healthcare sector

DMAI

Rajendra Pratap Gupta

President & Board member

 

December 27th, 2012

Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi

Chairman

Public Accounts Committee

6, Raisina road, New Delhi 110001

 

Ref: Auditing of the unused budgetary allocations for Healthcare sector

Dear Dr. Joshi,

Greetings from the Disease Management Association of India (DMAI).

This has reference to the meeting at your residence on 25th December 2012, and the discussions that we had on the Public Accounts Committee report on NRHM  (PAC NO. 1939). I have gone through the PAC report submitted by your good self to the Parliament. I wish to draw attention to the following references in your report;

Page 9: Mission Steering Group (MSG) was required to periodically monitor progress of the mission and to meet twice a year.  Audit scrutiny revealed that MSG met only four times in four years instead of 8 times as per the laid guidelines.

The delegation of powers to the MSG and EPC (Empowered Programme Committee) was subject to the condition that a progress report regarding NRHM, also indicating deviation from the financial norms and modifications in ongoing schemes, would be placed before the cabinet on an annual basis. However, during the past four years, the Mission had submitted a progress report to the Cabinet only once in August 2008 (as per the PAC report).

Page 12: Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in RCH services is not up to the expected levels

Page 18: Regarding composition & functioning of the VHSC (Village Health & Sanitation Committee)

Secretary Health’s statement,

“To be very honest with you, we have got a survey done recently by the Institute of Population Sciences, and yesterday they gave us a presentation. It is not a very happy picture on the village health societies. In many of them, people did not know if they existed; they did not know who the members are; they did not know if they are functioning; that was the finding of the planning Commission’s mid-term review also, when they had gone round the country and seen… that is VHND. There is certainly a vision in the NRHM when it was designed. That has not been fructified……….

“ Our experience with Panchayat raj is not good. They also complained about it. Half of the fund is not spent because he is the co-signatory – either he is not living in the village or if he is, he harasses her and why should she sign? The entire Panchayat raj system, with due respect, has not really worked; the ideal is one thing, but practically it is not; those who take interest, have got excellent experience, but those who are not interested, it is not good. It is very difficult for these people; it has not worked out well”.

Page 19:  Health Secretary’s response on, “how the ministry ensures that the disbursal of funds by the state health societies to VHSCs is monitored”?

“This is a huge task for the states. They are finding it very difficult to keep a track of so many small accounts. But we have given them accountant at every block level. In a block there will be some 100 VHSCs. He should have been able to get these accounts and see what they have spent on and do the auditing. We will have to streamline it further and get them to do the auditing. But we suspect about Rs.100-200 Crore lying unspent. That is our present assessment”

Page 20: Table 3 highlights the gap between the funds released and expenditure.

Page 23: Point 55, “ However, the Ministry have clarified that actual utilization of the funds allocated shall depend upon a number of factors in particular the absorptive capacity of the system. In fact, one of the argument put forward by many is that while the actual allocation in the Eleventh Plan was lower than the original plan allocation, the actual expenditure has still been lower i.e. the system has not been able to utilize the curtailed outlay”

Page 28: “It may be observed that rural households account for around 55 % of the total out of pocket expenditure within the country”

Page 31: Audit examination revealed that 71 PHCs (11 per cent) in 15 states were functioning without an allopathic doctor. In 518 PHCs (86 per cent) of 28 States / UTs, an AYUSH doctor had never been appointed. 69 test checked PHCs were functioning without an allopathic doctor or an AYUSH doctor. This meant that population residing in their sphere of coverage had no doctor available at all in the public domain. In Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Punjab, Sikkim, Tripura and Lakshadweep, none of the test checked centres had an AYUSH doctor.

Page 33: “As per norms, Specialists are appointed only at CHCs level and not at PHCs level. As per the data available in Bulletin on Rural Health Statistics in India (Updated up to March 09), a total of 5789 specialists are in a position at CHCs across the country, as against the sanctioned posts of 9028 specialists…………”

Dr. Joshi, as discussed during our meeting, it is imperative that the PAC / CAG, or any competent independent regulator, starts the audit of unspent funds allocated for each social sector so that the benefit of the plan reaches the targeted population. As DMAI, we would be interested in pursuing this issue further with the concerned authorities. Also, a clear and enabling policy framework is required, so that the bureaucrats can take decisions without fear on fund allocation utilization, and the absorptive capacity of the system increases to 100 %.

I have been visiting the rural sub-centres and have been gathering first hand information about the impact of NRHM. This communiqué is marked to the PMO and MOHFW for information. Will meet you shortly with more details

Thanks for your continued support

Best wishes for a great year ahead, & tons of good wishes for your birthday, in advance. Wish you good health & long life.

With best regards

Rajendra Pratap Gupta

CC:  Dr.Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister,

Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, MOHFW

Dr.Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission

Secretary – MOHFW

DGHS

President , PHFI


DMAI wants PAC to start auditing unspent govt funds for healthcare

DMAI wants PAC to start auditing unspent govt funds for healthcare

Suja Nair Shirodkar, Mumbai
Monday, December 31, 2012, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]
 

The Disease Management Association of India (DMAI) has urged the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), set up for the auditing of government expenditures to various sectors, to seriously consider auditing of unspent funds to the healthcare sector. In a representation made to Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, chairman of PAC, the association stressed it is essential to bring in accountability and transparency on why the funds that have been allocated for the use in various sectors go unused in spite of the requirement.

DMAI stressed that it has been observed time and again that a huge chunk of the allocated funds go back to the government exchequer, because the officials handling the responsibility was not able to use it appropriately. This they fear is because the officials who handle the charge either does not understand the need of the sector or they remain carefree since they are not questioned.

Rajendra Pratap Gupta, president, DMAI, pointed out that in healthcare sector which requires a major financial thrust from the government for various programmes, it has been noticed that a most of the funds assigned are either not released on time or are at times not released for the benefit of the sector. “There is already a huge hue and cry over the lack of insufficient funds kept aside for the healthcare sector. To make matters worse even from that funds allocated for the upliftment of the sector, a huge share goes without being spent, unused back to the government. We feel that this is because the administers do not feel answerable to the money unspent, since as of now they are only accountable for the expenditure made by the government.”

Gupta further added that for better administrative purpose and to ensure effective and timely use of the allocated funds to development purpose it is essential to start questioning the officials on unused government money. PAC which consist of selected members from the parliament, was constituted by the parliament for the auditing the expenditure of the government. However the DMAI stressed that along with getting the accountability of all the expenditure there is also an urgent need to get reasons on why the government have been lacking behind in spending money on much needed plans when the money was already sidelined for the same under the budgetary plan.

After the meeting with the chairman of PAC it was agreed upon by both the parties that there is a need to address this issues at the earliest. It is understood that following the meeting Dr Joshi has asked DMAI to submit a detailed data on all the unused funds in the healthcare sector compared to its requirement based on which they will be taking the required action.

DMAI informed that they have already started the work on this matter and will soon be sending the data to the government with updated data for their perusal.

http://pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=72938&sid=1

 

Pre-emptive care – A new model of care

Image

Rajendra Pratap Gupta

President & Member

Board of Directors

Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad

Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               October 10th, 2012

Government of India.

Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi – 110108.

Reference: Empowering people , ‘Pre-emptive care’ model & update on the Government Industry Dialogue

Dear Shri Azad ji,

Hope this finds you doing good.

I attended a workshop for health ministers of NDA two days ago . During the workshop , we also visited a village in Gadhchiroli ( A naxalite area in Maharashtra ).  Here, I came across a 7th class failed lady who has been delivering healthcare information and advice in the village for many years on mother and child health, and out of the past five years , the village has been ‘Child death free’ for four years .

This service of the 7th class failed lady makes me believe that time has come to move from, ‘Health for All’ to ‘All for Health’ and under this ,

  • Move to a system for self care
  • We must come out with a healthcare booklet for all the citizens in regional languages
  • Give generic names with prices for medicines ( OTC – Over the country or non-prescription pharma or non-pharma products ) , for common seasonal and acute ailments
  • Also, the Government must make this booklet available to all the citizens on its website & as an application in Android / Nokia and other phone operating systems. It is time to empower people to take to primary and preventive care . Healthcare indications with OTC products application must be made mandatory in all languages for cell phones sold in India . May be, MOCIT ( Ministry of Communications & IT ) can take the lead in doing this .

More than 3 years back , I had written in the document titled ‘Healthcare  reforms agenda’ (http://www.dmai.org.in/Healthcare_Reforms_Agenda.pdf ) , about ‘mass screenings’ for people,  and I am glad that your ministry has accepted it , and has already done over 10 million screenings in the past 10 months , which is really commendable .  Now , it is time for India to move from ‘Preventive’ care to ‘Pre-emptive’ care ( till now, I haven’t heard this word used for health ! ).

‘Pre-emptive healthcare’ ( Before teen age ) ,  starts before the age ( late twenties ), when ‘Preventive care’ starts . It would include ;

  • Starting with health screening for children when they turn the age of 10  . Earlier the better !  So that children grow up healthy .
  • The screenings will include obesity , blood pressure and diabetes screenings, every 6 months . These checks would not cost more than Rs. 10 a year , but can help in making India the healthiest nation !
  • Also, major healthcare problems arise due to deficiency of vitamins A, D & B & Omega 3. We must recommend guidelines for all children to undergo tests for deficiency of these vitamins and Omega 3, and also tie up with national level labs for offering these tests at rates mutually agreed by the Government . I understand that currently , it is difficult to have a test for Omega 3 in India, even if one needs to get it done !
  • Also, dental examination and eye check – ups must be made mandatory from the age of 6 years

We should, therefore, focus on drafting the child health guidelines and ensure that these become the basic requirement for school admissions and thus, are enforced nationally.

Lastly , on the Government Industry Dialogue (GID) for Healthcare that was organized by the Disease Management Association of India (DMAI) . I understand that you could not attend due to your pre-occupation, but I did receive the note conveying your good wishes for this initiative. This dialogue was a massive success with 60 CEO’s from the Healthcare sector companies attending the dialogue and was addressed by ;

  • Dr.Sam Pitroda , Advisor to the Prime-Minister
  • Shri Keshav Desiraju, Spl. Secretary , MOHFW
  • Dr.Ashok Kumar – representing the DGHS , Dr.Jagdish Prasad
  • Shri. Anil Swarup, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment
  • Dr.K.Srinath Reddy, President , PHFI & Chairman, High Level Expert Group on Universal Coverage
  • Dr.Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group;
  • Besides CEO’s & Managing Directors of leadings healthcare corporations

Besides , the dialogue was well attended by the media . Details of the deliberations are available on http://governmentindustrydialogue.org

This dialogue showed the keenness from both the sides ( Industry & the Government ) to work shoulder to shoulder to address the key healthcare challenges facing the nation .

Three areas of cooperation have emerged; i.e. adoption of districts under mass screening programs , companies willing to work on secondary prevention program in addition to the mass screening program , IT & mHealth companies willing to provide innovative solutions for managing chronic diseases and program evaluation tools, training front line health workers & Rural health . It would be good if the MOHFW now moves to focused meetings under the Government Industry Dialogue to decide the scope of collaboration specific to each program. I am sure that this will lead to more effective implementation of existing programs . I look forward to your guidance on the same.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be attending meetings in USA – ‘International Wellness and Chronic Care Symposium’,  and in Manila – ‘The Asia Pacific Leadership & Policy Dialogue’, hosted by WHO and the World Economic Forum for digital health . Will update you on the developments

With best regards ,

Rajendra Pratap Gupta

CC.

Dr.Manmohan Singh, Prime Minster, Govt. of India.

Dr.Sam Pitroda ,Advisor to the Prime Minister of India .

Shri Keshav Desiraju, Special Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, GOI.

Shri Anil Swarup, Addl Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment , GOI

Dr.K.Srinaty Reddy, President , PHFI & Chairman, HLEG- Universal Coverage

Dr.Jagdish Prasad, DGHS, Min. of Health & Family Welfare, GOI.


Recommendations made yesterday to the Union Ministry of Health on Child Health

 

 
1. Start a chapter on Hygiene & oral care from class 3 onwards 
2. Must create animated pictures and video’s for children’s health that could be multilingual and can be screened nationally in classes 
3. Have a chapter and subject called ‘Essentials of health’ which is exam based 
4. Define child health and check up guidelines on the lines of vaccination charts till the age of 15 year 
5. Child obesity is a serious issue and this can be addressed by giving right knowledge about ‘Calorie exchanges’ . Since parents teach the children , they will also get educated on the same and impact the family’s health
6. Work outs and Yoga / mediation  must be introduced in all schools 
7. All schools must have ideal height / weight / age charts in all classes and this must be used every 6 months measuring these indices , and reported in the half yearly and annual report card. The same way as other marks and habits are reported in class report cards at the PTA 
8. Children do not realise the importance of having adequate quantity of water , and since in school they are some times restricted to go to toilets , it is high time that the guidelines are issued to all schools for water consumption in school and at home 
9. Junk foods needs adequate attention in school level awareness campaigns 

 


DMAI organises industry government meet

DMAI organises industry government meet.


National Digital Health Plan

 Rajendra Pratap Gupta

 President & Member

Board of Directors

September 22, 2012.

Dr.Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister,

Government of India

7, Race Course road, New Delhi -110001.

Email/ speed-post

Reference: National Digital Health Plan (NDHP)

Dear Dr. Singh,

I am sending this note on behalf of DMAI – The Population Health Improvement Alliance.

About Disease Management Association of India (DMAI) Disease Management Association of India (DMAI – The Population Health Improvement Alliance), was formed by Executives from the Global Healthcare industry to bring all the stake holders of healthcare on one platform. DMAI has been successful in establishing an intellectual pool of top healthcare executives to become an enabler in building a robust healthcare system in India. India is on the verge of building its healthcare system, and it has a long way to go. DMAI is building the knowledge pool to contribute & convert ‘Ideas’ into ‘Reality’, for healthcare in India. DMAI is the only not-for-profit organization focused on population health improvement in India

Let me start by quoting Kathleen Sebelius, Health Secretary of the United States, “Mobile Healthcare is the biggest technology break-through of our time to address our greatest national challenge”. Ms. Sebelius said this last year at the mHealth summit in Washington DC. This statement is more relevant to our country as, though for the developed world, mHealth is another option for healthcare delivery but for a developing country like India, mHealth is the only option!

We urge upon your good selves to initiate the National Digital Health plan – NDHP (Digital Health means Telemedicine, mHealth & technology backed healthcare delivery) for India, and may be, consider to form an inter-ministerial group to give this a definite shape. According to WHO review in 2010, only a quarter of countries worldwide had drawn up a national telemedicine policy or strategy. Let us take the lead in setting up the National Digital Health Plan (NDHP).

With 6 billion mobile phones globally at the end of 2011 and about 960 million cell phones in India, mobile phones provide a matchless platform for delivering change at the grass roots and are a tool

To deliver programs aimed at economic & social inclusion & more importantly, inclusive healthcare.

We must think seriously & act now about incorporating Telemedicine & mHealth (mobile healthcare) in our healthcare system and building a road map of Digital Health for India. With over 800 million people living in rural India and about 640,000 villages as per the latest data of planning commission’s approach paper for the 12th five year plan, it is imperative that we build a national roadmap for telemedicine in India to address the issue of accessibility & affordability with sustainability on one side, and on the other side, for leveraging a global business opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs, like what IT (Information Technology) did to India’s growth story. It is time to replicate the IT success story this time using mHealth and help the industry build a few multi-billion dollar global corporations

Telemedicine is needed for delivering ‘Inclusive healthcare’ to India & also to serve across various sectors like in defence, help in job creation, veterans’ health and disaster management.

Defence services: We need Telemedicine through dedicated satellites for armed forces posted on Naval Ships and remote areas at the border and at Siachen. Also, the ECHS for ex-servicemen could have a healthcare facility through Telemedicine at various polyclinics .This must be initiated and the ECHS clinics must be connected with Army referral centers. US Veterans administration, for e.g., found that overall the practice of telemedicine / mHealth cuts hospitalization by 30 % & admissions for heart failure by 40 %

Disaster Management: During national disasters, Telemedicine & mHealth can be the only healthcare delivery channel for the affected areas and this calls for a Telemedicine road map under National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), at the Prime Minister’s office. During Tsunami in Japan, Continua Health Alliance members came together and gave a solution in a record time. It would have been a double catastrophe, if such a Tsunami ever destroyed paper medical records and the patients had to be moved to a remote place for treatment. Nothing could have been worked without medical devices which were interoperable and an EMR hosted over a cloud. This calls for immediate planning to avoid healthcare disaster along with a natural disaster!

Chronic Diseases:  In the USA, FDA (Food & Drugs Administration) has started approving mHealth applications and two of the insurance companies recently agreed to pay for mHealth applications for diabetic patients. mHealth holds the promise to address the biggest challenge facing our nation i.e. chronic diseases & the implementation of secondary prevention program

With approximately 960+ million cell phone users; healthcare in India will converge to mHealth, and ultimately, this is where all practitioners, payers and users will converge too! It is time to look at mHealth as a tool for ‘Inclusive Healthcare’. With mHealth, ‘Universal Healthcare’ will move faster from a dream to reality!

Earlier, it was said that, ‘An apple a day keeps a doctor away’, and now it is being said rightly that, ‘An app ( mobile application ) a day keeps a doctor away’.

According to the PWC & Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recent study – 2012, conducted in 10 countries including India, Patients believe that convenience, cost and quality of health in the next three years will change due to mhealth

According to this study;

59 % of the doctors and payers believe that the wide spread adoption of mhealth in their countries is inevitable

In the next 3 years,

57 % of the patients in emerging markets believe that mHealth apps / services will make healthcare more convenient

54 % of the patients in emerging markets believe that mHealth apps / services will improve the quality of care

53 % of the patients believe that mHealth apps / services will substantially reduce the overall cost of care

59 % of the emerging-market patients use at least one mHealth application or service.

The Department of Health, U.K. had set up a WSD (Whole System Denominator) program to help provide an evidence base for setting further policy in this field. This was claimed to be the largest randomized control trial of Telehealth & telecare in the world. The program was launched in May 2008 involving around 6200 patients and 238 GP practices. Early indications from WSD show that, if used correctly, Telehealth can deliver a 15 % reduction in accident & emergency visits, a 20 % reduction in emergency admissions, a 14 % reduction in elective admissions, a 14 % reduction in bed days and an 8 % reduction in tariff costs. They also demonstrate a 45 % reduction in mortality rates

According to Lord Nigel Crisp, Former CEO of NHS, U.K. (National Health Service) and Member, House of Lords, ‘In UK, NHS direct started free health advice service over phone. It has over 6 million subscribers, over 10% of the country’s population’.

For chronic disease patients, Home care based ‘Nuvola It Home Doctor system’ was developed by Telecom Italia in the Piedmont region. As a part of the policy to bring health services closer to the community, patients suffering from chronic diseases monitor certain biological parameters using traditional electro-medical devices and send them to the Telecom Italia data center, using a dedicated mobile phone provided by the hospital. Home-based care is estimated to cost 180 euros compared to 700-1000 euros in hospital. mHealth based home care can provide tremendous relief to geriatric patients in India, in addition to psychiatric patients with the existing ratio of psychiatrists: population nearing 1: 10, 00000

OPD workload in Government district hospitals: In India, the biggest problem in district hospitals is the patient overload in OPD (Outdoor patients department).

By using mHealth / telemedicine, we can provide right timely interventions at the point of care and cut this OPD overload anywhere by 30-60 %.

mHealth as a tool for diplomacy: A few years ago, ISRO had taken up some key initiatives along with the Ministry of External affairs for setting up the ‘PAN network’. It is time to revive that actively, and provide remote consultations, not just in India but in developing countries of Asia & Africa. Telemedicine can be a good tool for diplomacy. I had made a keynote presentation at Lahore, Pakistan under Aman-ki-Asha in May 2012, and telemedicine and mhealth was a key point of discussion to increase collaboration between the two countries. Healthcare is the most impactful tool for political diplomacy with our neighbours who have similar challenges when it comes to healthcare.

Rural Health: With over 640,000 villages where doctors are not willing to work, technology seems to be the best solution and mHealth appears to be the best technology

In Turkey, Acibadem Mobile runs a mHealth nutrition service with 450,000 members. Also, in less than two years, an emergency healthcare service offered in conjunction with Turkish Telecom has grown to 100,000 members. . In Mexico, Medicall Home has five million subscribers who pay US $5 a month on their phone bills in order to access medical advice

Across the border, in Bangladesh, Grameenphone has set up Healthlink to allow its customers to talk to the doctors 24 X 7. This service has fielded 3.5 million calls in the last six years

Strengthening India’s healthcare system: Also, India is presently building on its healthcare system, and the 12th Five Year Plan has been referred to as the ‘Plan for Health’! Now is the right time for the policy makers to ensure that technology is embedded in all programs that the Government is planning to rollout for healthcare delivery. In specific, mHealth has tremendous potential to reduce costs, improve the reach and access to Health Care, make the healthcare system more outcomes driven, and more importantly, help in establishing an ‘empowered patient’.

According to the EIU PWC report 2012, USA has been at the forefront of mobile health deployments in the world. Almost 40 % of the solutions deployed work towards strengthening the healthcare systems. mHealth is not just promising but truly transformative to healthcare. From pill reminder, training of health workers, reducing IM / MMR, T.B. – DOTS, HIV treatment compliance to quitting smoking to managing diabetes, obesity & emergency surgeries, mHealth is becoming an integral part of healthcare delivery. It is time for the best brains to work on mHealth with all stake holders in healthcare delivery

In my view, mHealth is the only option in India, where people pay 2/3rd of the healthcare costs and only 1/3rd get healthcare in the real sense.

Seeing the potential of telemedicine, & mHealth in particular, India needs a roadmap for mHealth / Telemedicine encompassing areas of rural health, tribal health, chronic disease management, disaster management, defense services, coastal healthcare services etc.

Following might be helpful in building the digital health road map for India

Focus areas that need to be considered in the NDHP                                           Ministry / Deptt / Org. involved

 

  1. Incorporating Digital Health in Medical education / training                       MCI, NIFW, MOHFW
  2. ESIC clinics connected via Telemedicine & home care

facilities provided through mHealth for ex-servicemen                                                MOD / ISRO

  1. Sub-centers in rural areas to be replaced gradually

with mobile health Units (MHU’s & this could                                 Consider under MNAREGA,

also double as medical ambulances at the time                               NRHM – MOHFW

  • of emergency in rural areas)
  1. mHealth national grid                                                                           MOHFW/ML&E/ MOD/MIT
  2. National / Regional IVR Health helplines on the lines of 108        MOHFW / State Govts
  3. mHealth for Chronic disease management                                      MOHFW
  4. Skills Development for Digital Health                                               NSDC / MHRD
  5. Telemedicine / mHealth under Disaster Management – NDMA    PMO
  1. Regulation of tariffs ( special tariffs for mHealth services)              TRAI
  2. Mental health Telemedicine Network                                               MOHFW
  3. Checking counterfeit & Spurious medicines using mHealth           Deptt. of Pharmaceuticals
  4. Healthcare facilities in Jails                                                                Min. of Home Affairs
  5. National IT policy 2011 & health as a mission mode project           Min. of Comm. & IT
  6. National Institute of telemedicine & mHealth                                  MOHFW
  7. DST- TDB could set up ‘mHealth innovation village’

like the Startup village in Kochi                                                         DST, TDB / CHA

  1. Electronic Health Record – RSBY                                                      MOL & E / HIMSS / CHA
  2. ECHS / Naval Telemedicine / Siachen / borders                            MOD / MHA / ISRO
  3. mHealth for Tribal health & North Eastern states                          MDONER / MTA
  4. Civil Aviation / airports                                                                      MOCA / ISRO
  5. Social media strategy for health                                                        Min. of Comm & IT / HIMSS
  6. Medical Devices standards & Interoperability                                 Min. of Comm. & IT /CHA
  7. Electronic Health records for all new born’s                                   MOCWD / CHA /HIMSS
  8. Treatment protocols for various diseases                                       ICMR / PHFI / AIIMS
  9. Enactment National Telemedicine / Digital Health Act               MOHFW/Min. of Legal Affairs
  10. Applications Venture fund for telemedicine                                    TDB / DST
  11. Digital adoption lifecycle benchmarking of different states        Planning Commission /HIMSS
  12. National Cloud computing policy for healthcare                             MIT / MOHFW / HIMSS
  13. Privacy / data security issues of patients                                         MOHFW / BIS / CHA
  14. e-Prescription policy ( Electronic / digital prescription)                MOHFW / MIT /HIMSS

On the acceptability & adoption front for telemedicine & mHealth, let me quote examples;  a rural telemedicine service provider in Indi has done about 200,000 consultations with 30-40 % repeat visits, across states of U.P. , Bihar, Karnataka & Maharashtra . A leading eye care hospital does over 2.5 lac telemedicine consultations every year and another eye care hospital does over 1.5 lac telemedicine consultations in a year in India.

EMRI – 108 services in Andhra Pradesh is on a PPP model, and this service receives 58000+ calls per day with 4800+ emergencies a day and has saved 20165 lives. A true example of successful mHealth / telemedicine in our own country!

HMRI -104 (Health Management Research Institute, A.P.), is about providing information on health, counseling and healthcare services via health helpline. Till May, 2008, it received 51000 calls per day. Medical advice given to 40860, counseling attended- 7493, information of health facilities provided- 6331 & complaint calls received on healthcare facilities- 253. Top 10 ailments attended were recurrent abdominal pain, back pain, knee pain, cough, hair loss, chest pain, and eye pain or problems with eyelids, rash, pain in ankles or feet, belching, growing stomach or gas.

I had a chance to visit these facilities personally and observe the calls from patients / public, and I must say that this is something every Indian must have access to, rich or poor ! With an average cost per call of Rs.9, this is definitely a successful telemedicine & mhealth model for implementation in India. http://nrhm-mis.nic.in/UI/MEActivities/goa_web/PDFs/02-05-08_pdf/Pre%20Lunch/Goa%20presentation_AP.pdf

Also, I have visited remote places in Wardha district of Maharashtra, where mHealth has been used by rural health workers and has helped reduce maternal mortality from 91 per lac to 51 per lac in a period of about 1 ½ years with an approximate investment of Rs.4000 per village . There was a 43.95 % reduction in MMR using simple phones, through text messaging and covering high risk expectant mothers with the existing network of anganwadi workers

According to the GSMA deployment tracker, currently there are around 300 commercial deployments globally. (http://apps.wirelessintelligence.com/tracker/, extracted in Dec 2011).

So clearly, mHealth & telemedicine is fast pervading and showing its impact on the healthcare system in India

Digital Health & Medical tourism: India is fast losing to other South East Asian nations as a centre of excellence for medical tourism due to lack of IT usage in its hospitals and dismal usage of mhealth / telemedicine. International patients follow the international electronic data / medical records standards , and also would like to connect with their care givers using telemedicine , and if we do not promote EMR & telemedicine through hospitals , India is likely to lose billions of dollars in revenue which otherwise could accrue through foreign patients seeking treatment in Indian facilities

Healthcare program reporting, review & timely interventions: Currently, the healthcare data is reaching after months and in some cases well over two years. This could become live and actionable for timely interventions by using GPS enabled devices & e-reporting. Solutions are already available and are scalable. It is the right time to adopt the same in NRHM, and create a national household medical record (NHMR) for the families in rural / urban India. This will help us study the epidemiology & family health risk assessment. May be, we must make it compulsory to ensure that all the 18 million new born’s must have the electronic health record and then move upwards to put an electronic health record for all Indians, post the national screening program. At least, the next generation must be having a digital health record right from birth so we do not have to change the system backwards for them in future.

So, for sure, mHealth & Telemedicine is a proven model for care delivery, and we need to support it in a more structured and institutional manner for the next 5 years .

It is beyond doubt that , mhealth will add efficiency to affordability , acceptability ,  accessibility & efficiency on one hand , and create about 2 million jobs and also add  about 0 .5 % of growth in the GDP at a minimum in the next 5 years .

Inclusive innovation & inclusive growth have now added a new dimension, i.e. ‘inclusive healthcare’, with digital health being the starting point. mHealth is the fastest solution to the oldest problem of reaching the unreachable! We must seriously consider deploying at least 3 % of our total healthcare budget on ICT, and this will certainly make the data live and lead to timely interventions and thus saving lives, establishing accountability of the service provider through periodic reviews and bring transparency in functioning of the various programs

US FDA has approved mobile health applications for diabetes management besides others, and two insurance companies have agreed to reimburse mobile health applications for treatment of diabetes. This development indicates that the big multi-billion untapped market of the developed world is waiting to be tapped and the government needs to step in, like it did to develop multi-billion dollar corporations in the field of Information Technology. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) & Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC )report 2012, mHealth market is likely to be USD 23 Billion by 2017, and Asia Pacific market will be 30 % at USD 6.8 Billion .If we work towards setting the right enabling policies for mHealth, Indian companies would grab a major portion of this market, like we did for IT industry a few decades ago. Besides, given the technical & competent manpower in India, mHealth & telemedicine can do for country what IT revolution has done for India!  This calls for a dedicated action group on Digital Health (mHealth & telemedicine) .

mHealth & Telemedicine is becoming the focus area for all the major healthcare systems across the world, and given India’s expertise in this area, India can become a global provider of products and services in the field of Telemedicine & mHealth. We believe mHealth can add at least 0.5 % to country’s GDP in the next 3 – 5 years, create at least 5 billion dollar companies in mHealth, and lead to creation of over 20,00,000 (2 million) jobs directly by becoming a Global leader in this space. If two persons are deployed in every village for Telemedicine, and considering that India has over    6,40,000 villages, we will create over 1.2 million jobs directly just in rural India and this could be a worthwhile project to be considered for funding under MNAREGA scheme that will not only create jobs, but also lead to better health for rural India and lead to tremendous savings under NRHM expense head!

The good point is that, we have a least complex healthcare system in India, and we are building it up. Also, we have quite receptive and friendly policy makers who are willing to try initiatives.

Hopefully, we will lead and show the world an outcome driven & a self-sustainable healthcare delivery model built on strong foundations.

Over the past few years, I had a good experience working with policy makers across geographies and it has been a wonderful experience, especially in India, working with different stake holders to discuss new ideas and policies aimed at better healthcare options for the common man.

This is not a complete or a reference document but just to initiate a few discussion points. Should your office or any concerned organization, department or ministry need more inputs or support, my colleagues at the World Economic Forum, The Telemedicine Society of India, HIMSS & Continua Health Alliance, would be more than glad to volunteer and assist. I am sure that this submission will also be considered positively by the various stake holders in the Government and acted upon, so that we can see large scale deployment of mHealth & telemedicine projects in all major departments and programs of the Government making healthcare accessible and affordable to provide timely advice & right interventions for the common man 24 X 7.

Yours in good health

Rajendra Pratap Gupta

Member, World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council – Digital Health
Board Member, Care Continuum Alliance, Washington DC. USA
Executive Council member, Telemedicine Society of India
President & Member of the Board, Disease Management Association of India (DMAI).

http://www.dmai.org.in

CC:

Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson , NAC.

Dr.M.M.Joshi, Chairman, Parliamentary Accounts Committee .

Dr.Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Innovation Council, GOI.

Shri A.K. Antony, Hon’ble Minister of Defence , GOI.

Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Hon’ble Minister for Health & Family Welfare, GOI

Shri Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for HRD/ Comm & IT, GOI

Shri Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, GOI.

Shri Ajit Singh, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, GOI

Shri Salman Khurshid, Union Minister for Law, GOI

Smt. Krishna Tirath, Union Minister of state (I/C) for Women & Child Development, GOI

Shri Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of state for home affairs, GOI.

Shri Sachin Pilot, Union Minister of State for Comm. & IT, GOI

Dr.Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, GOI

Dr.K.Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI.

Shri. P.K.Pradhan, Secretary – HFW, GOI

Shri. Keshav Desiraju, Addl Secy – HFW, GOI

Shri. Anil Swarup, Joint – Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, GOI

Mrs. Anu Garg, Joint Secretary – HFW, GOI

Shri Harkesh Mittal, Secretary, Technology Development Board, GOI

Shri Rajeev Aggarwal, Secretary, TRAI, GOI

Shri Shankar Aggarwal, Addl Secy, MOD, GOI

Dr.Jagdish Prasad, DGHS, GOI

Dr.V.M.Katoch, Secretary DHR & DG, ICMR. GOI

Director, NIFW, MOHFW, GOI

Governors, MCI.

Chairman, ISRO.

Dilip Chenoy, Managing Director, NSCDCL,

Board of HIMSS Asia Pacific India chapter

President, Continua Health Alliance

Board, Telemedicine Society of India

Board members, Disease Management Association of India.

Abbreviations used:

NDHP: National Digital Health Plan

MOHFW: Ministry of Health & Family Welfare

MHA: Ministry of Home Affairs

PHFI: Public Health Foundation of India

HFW: Health & Family Welfare

DGHS: Director General of Health Services

MCI: Medical council of India

TDB: Technology Development Board

DST: Department of Science & Technology

NIFW: National Institute of Family Welfare

TRAI: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

MOD: Ministry of defence

MNAREGA: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

NRHM: National Rural Health mission

MOL & E: Ministry of Labour & Employment

MCWD: Ministry of Child & Women Development

MIT: Ministry of Information Technology

MHRD: Ministry of Human Resource Development

MDONER: Ministry of Development for North East Region

MTA: Minister of Tribal Affairs

PMO: Prime Minister’s office

MOCA: Ministry of Civil Aviation

ICMR: Indian Council of Medical Research

BIS: Bureau of Indian Standards

CHA: Continua Health Alliance

HIMSS: Healthcare Information Management & Systems Society

NSDC: National Skills Development Corporation

Min: Ministry

Deptt: Department

Org: Organization

EMR: Electronic Medical Records

ISRO: Indian Space Research Organization

 

Reports referred in this note:

Touching lives through mobile health by PWC

A Better insight to mHealth adoption

Telehealth Report 2011 by Telemedicine Society of India ( www.telemedicinecongress.com )

Emerging mHealth: paths for growth by PWC