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West Bengal govt equips 6K health centers with telemedicine facilities

The state health department is now focusing on telemedicine as one of the tools to ensure easier access to government healthcare.

An official of the department said more than 6,000 government health centres across West Bengal, mostly those in remote areas, have telemedicine facilities.

“We are now providing access to quality healthcare to more than 50,000 people in remote areas by expert doctors through telemedicine. Every day, around 700 doctors in government hospitals are involved in the process,” said West Bengal health secretary Narayan Swaroop Nigam.

An official in the health department said the target was to provide telemedicine facilities to 10,000 health centres in Bengal.

Trained nurses are first screening patients, noting down their blood pressure and blood sugar level, among other basic details.

“The nurses are conveying the information to doctors at government medical colleges and hospitals. After speaking to patients through video calls, the doctors are giving prescriptions,” said the official.

The health centres are then handing medicines to the patients.

The telemedicine programme was rolled out one and a half years back, the official said.

“Our target is to bring down the footfall at government hospital OPDs. The telemedicine facility will help us achieve that. It will also cut down medical costs of patients,” the official said.

“Now, many patients in remote areas don’t get their conditions diagnosed early because of their difficulties in visiting hospitals. The telemedicine facility will enable early diagnosis and can lead toa drop in admissions. Diseases detected early have a higher chance of being managed without a hospital stay.”

The telemedicine centres are running between 10am and 4pm, the outpatient department hours of government hospitals.

Devi Shetty, chairman and founder of Narayana Health group, said 80 per cent of the consultations in OPDs can bedone online. “However, all the reports should be sent to the doctor before the consultation,” he said.

According to Shetty, at Narayana Health group, more than 10,000 patients suffering from diabetes avail themselves of online consultations. Telegraph India

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