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US dose for healthy future

- International tie-up for medical boost over Web

Specialists sitting in the US could soon peek into the medical records of patients in the city and treat them, courtesy an agreement with Bihar.

US-based Delta Healthcare Providers on Thursday agreed in-principle to provide telemedicine services via its panel of doctors to the government and private hospitals in Bihar. The initiative would start with Patna.

State Health Society, Bihar, and Delta Healthcare Providers would likely sign the agreement next month.

Although telemedicine services are not new to Bihar, this would be the first international tie-up. Senior officials in the state health society said the US tie-up is a move to attract private hospitals.

Dr T.A. Lari, state programme officer-Ayush, State Health Society, Bihar, said: “The health department is working on war footing to connect 200 primary health centres (PHCs) and hospitals in all districts with telemedicine services by the end of March. We started talks with the Delta Healthcare Providers because private hospitals were not too keen on associating with the services. So, during a meeting on Thursday, an in-principle agreement to depute a panel of specialist American doctors for telemedicine services in Bihar was reached at.”

Telemedicine and community outreach programmes — in spite of constraints of Internet connectivity in rural areas and shortage of trained manpower — are the latest shots of inspiration injected into the state’s health services.

Lari said 130 PHCs and 28 district hospitals, including Patna Medical College and Hospital and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, have been connected with telemedicine services. The government plans to connect the rest by March 31 after which senior doctors can assist personnel at the district hospitals and PHCs in diagnosing and treating patients.

AIIMS-Patna will also upgrade its Skype-based medical assistance into a 24x7 facility in a fortnight. At present, five to 10 patients are checked in a day via the facility. A faculty member said: “Our telemedicine and community outreach wing is operational since November 2012. Manpower crunch though has made us run it for only two hours (3-5pm) daily. We are recruiting senior and junior resident doctors, which is expected to be finalised within a fortnight. Once more doctors join, we will provide the service 24x7.”

The facility over Skype uses Electronic Medical Records software to diagnose and treat patients at several places in the state, including Ara, Khusrupur (Patna district) and Bhagalpur. “The patient sits in front of a web camera connected to a computer at the outreach clinics of our partner NGOs. The patient records and treatment suggested are fed into the software that can be accessed from either side,” the faculty member said.

Paras HMRI Hospital will commission its telemedicine-based orthopaedic outreach clinics within a month too. “Acknowledging the number of patients we get from Assam, we have decided to open an outreach clinic there. It would be assisted by a team headed by Dr John Mukhopadhyay, our orthopaedics head of department. Talks are on with our partners in Assam and order for procuring the required equipment has also been placed,” said Dr Ravi Shankar Singh, the general manager of the hospital.

US calling

Delta Healthcare Providers
Support: Specialist American doctors to provide 24x7 consultation over phone and video conferencing
Status: In-principle approval in place, agreement to be signed with Bihar State Health Society in February

Base expansion
Paras HMRI Hospital
Support:
Orthopaedic teams to monitor and advise patients at outreach clinics in Chhapra, Purnea and Assam at OPD timings
Status: Assam centre to start within a month