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Telemedicine in India

Telemedicine as a way of delivering clinical health care to patients has been in existence for over couple of decades now. With its ability to offers quality health care services to patients at a distance, no wonder telemedicine is becoming more and more popular each passing day. 

Telemedicine, by definition is inducing clinical health care to individuals by the usage of telecommunication and information technology and is completely independent of the distance between the health care expert and his patients. Telemedicine is primarily used to overcome distance barriers and to improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. Residents of these areas often have substandard access to specialty healthcare, primarily because specialist physicians are more likely to be located in areas of concentrated urban population. Recently, telemedicine is also widely taken assistance in handling critical care procedures as well. 

Telemedicine story in India

India is classified as a country that score very low on penetration of healthcare services in rural areas, especially with regards to secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities. Despite several initiatives healthcare facilities for rural masses, they continue to suffer from the absence of quality healthcare. However, with the advent of telemedicine and its active promotions, significant share of patients from remote locations are receiving advice/ guidance from health care experts in cities, without having to visit them physically.

Telemedicine in India has grown leaps and bounds over the last two decades. With efforts of both the government and private healthcare institutions, telemedicine has been able to reach most of country’s populace. Organizations that include the government, private hospitals and NGOs are collaborating to manage synergies to deliver widespread quality healthcare with the help of telemedicine. Many initiatives, with the inclusion of a variety of telemedicine technologies are being actively promoted and supported by these players, including Department of IT(GOI), ISRO, Apollo Hospitals, State governments, Asia Heart Foundation, NEC Telemedicine ( For North Eastern states ) and many others. 

One key technology player who has taken drastic collaboration steps to connect healthcare along the nook and corner of the country is ISRO. ISRO or Indian Space Research Organization has made technology available to masses with which delivery of quality health care has been made possible with primary focus to provide health care accessibility in distant areas, rural communities and pilgrimage centres. Very recently the GOI and ISRO signed an MOU to expand its telemedicine network to remote places offering over 100 telemedicine centres across the country – Further Reading (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/with-105-centres-govt-spreads-telemedicine-network-across-country/story-UDwyqZRniQOjzJg9MOzk8I.html ). Such centres are now able to provide quality treatment and medical consultation at almost one-tenth of the cost that private players offer, while saving lives people who have least access to physical medical care.  

Mentions of NGOs and private players too are important in our discussion here. Telemedicine centres run by NGO’s contribute the most in terms of number of telemedicine centres operational in India with market share of 56.1%. NGO’s such as World Health Partners is the largest NGO in India that has 1100 telemedicine centres operational in India. Hospitals run by the government and medical colleges such as AIIMS, SGPGI and others too have stitched synergies with districts and sub-district hospitals of different states in India. Major Indian hospitals including Apollo Tele Health Services, Narayana Health Telemedicine Centres, Aravind Eye Care and other run many telemedicine centres across India.

In India, the telemedicine services are majorly classified under the following areas – 

  • Tele-radiology
  • Tele-consultation
  • Tele-ophthalmology
  • Tele-ICU
  • Tele-dermatology
  • Tele-surgery
  • Tele- pathology and 
  • Tele-psychiatry

Growing awareness, particularly with the younger and middle age of Indian demographics, has resulted in huge marketing demand for online consultations and second medical opinion for they helps patients get medical advice from experts of particular disease from anywhere in the world. With the advent of e-health platforms, assisted by telemedicine, physical distance is no more a barrier. Due to easy accessibility, convenience and affordability several patients are opting for telemedicine and online healthcare services as patients do not have to stand in long queues waiting outside the hospitals.

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