Chamber of commerce calls for telemedicine in prime minister's Digital India plan
July 14, 2015
India’s Associated Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Assocham) has called on prime minister Narendra Modi to make telemedicine available to large areas of the population that are not covered with the basic health amenities as part of his Digital India programme.
In a paper, it said the key issues that could make the programme a big success would be costs and adequate availability of internet bandwidth.
With over two-thirds of India’s people living in rural areas, telemedicine is seen as a means of improving the quality of rural healthcare. In countries such as India, the national healthcare systems are still struggling to deliver affordable access to healthcare to all their citizens. With limited resources and much of the population living in remote rural areas, telemedicine has the potential to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare in the country, the paper said.
“For telemedicine to be widely implemented, it has to be profitable to both vendors and patients,” said the paper. “Bandwidth costs, training and maintaining personnel at the point of care centre increase costs while confidence of the patient is low when the doctor untrained in tele-health attends to them.”
Assocham secretary general DS Rawat said: “Reaching health to the rural areas by leveraging the prime minister’s ambitious Digital India programme would be one of its major measurable deliverables.”
Telemedicine has huge potential in India because of the severe shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas; high patient volumes; widespread availability of mobile networks; rapid growth in the availability of low-power, hand-held medical monitoring devices; and the shift away to a networked tele-enabled system.
However, availability of internet speed and bandwidth remains a concern. Even though low-cost telemedicine applications have proven to be feasible and clinically useful, these applications are not being adopted on a significant scale due to various barriers.
“Telemedicine usage is limited in scale in the country,” said the paper. “Urgent action is therefore needed to break down barriers to the widespread adoption of the technology in healthcare. These barriers include regulatory hurdles, in particular clarifying the legislative environment relating to health data privacy and security and personal identity regulations.”
A lack of computer literate workers with expertise in managing computer services, combined with the lengthy process required to master computer-based peripheral medical instruments, can hinder the adoption of telemedicine in the country, the paper said.