Adoption of telemedicine could reform rural healthcare in India

A patient named Krishnan (changed name) from Rameswaram experienced difficulties of blurry vision. At the age of 68, Krishnan expected that it is a minor setback owing to his age but with the passing of time he developed more difficulties as he was not able to recognize familiar faces. Therefore, he decided to opt for medical help and his visit to a primary eye care centre turned out to be a silver lining for him. The eye care centre was established in the small town of Rameswaram by Aravinda Eye Hospital, Madurai and was considered unique because it was telemedicine-enabled. He received a slit lamp examination which was conducted by an ophthalmic technician and the data obtained from the examination was input into an electronic medical record.

According to a statement of the chief medical officer of Aravind Eye Hospital, Dr. R. Kim, Krishnan was provided with glasses by the ophthalmic technician after consultation with the ophthalmologist at the base hospital. He also added that telemedicine-enabled vision centres have facilitated the opportunity for reaching out to people in need of eye care. His statement also included information regarding 66 vision centres characterized with telemedicine facilities that cater to the needs of 1800 patients on a daily basis.

Telemedicine can be considered as a prolific aspect for rural India that is plagued by the concerns of limited access to healthcare services. One of the examples of productive telemedicine network has been observed in the public-private partnership between Apollo Hospitals and the Government of Andhra Pradesh. The network was capable of results such as 18,98,170 consultations within a period of one and a half years as well as 1,23,596 specialist tele-consultations and 17,74,574 physical OP consultations. The existing scenario for telemedicine in India facilitates insights into profound untapped potential with almost 26,000 Primary Health Centres that can be equipped with telemedicine facility.

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