Telemedicine : Lifeline for the Poor

 | October 02,2010 01:52 pm IST

Nurses no longer have to wake up the lone doctor in some rural area when the sick and injured rush to the hospital emergency room. They will quickly assess the patient, and in serious cases, fire up the camera, monitor, and will establish link with the hospital in the city.


The nurse would place an electronic stethoscope over the patient's chest so the doctor can listen to the heartbeat, put an otoscope into the patient's ear so the doctor can check for an ear infection, or send an X-ray so the doctor can spot a broken bone - all from a remote location.


All this can be made possible with the help of Telemedicine.


What is Telemedicine?

Information technology has dramatically changed the way we lead our lives and through telemedicine, it will change the way in which healthcare is delivered to millions of people in the country. Before going further, let us understand the concept of telemedicine.


Telemedicine, in simple words, is a method by which patients can be examined, investigated, monitored, and treated, with the patient and the doctor located at different places. It is also referred to as "healing by wire". It was considered as an experiment earlier, but Telemedicine is a reality today and is here to stay.


Advantages of Telemedicine

Telemedicine can act as a lifeline for the poor, especially in countries such as India. In a developing country such as India, there is huge inequality in health-care distribution. Majority of population of India lives in villages but on the other side majority of doctors are based in cities. Also the poor infrastructure of rural health centers makes it impossible to retain doctors in villages, who feel that they become professionally isolated and outdated if stationed in remote areas. In addition, poor Indian villagers spend most of their out-of-pocket health expenses on travel to the specialty hospitals in the city and for staying in the city during treatment.


It is no exaggeration when one hears of patients being carried on donkey cart or bullock cart for one to two days to reach the nearest district or town hospital for an ailment which could have easily been cured in the patient's home place, provided information and medical advise was available.


In this scenario, Telemedicine can prove to be very useful for the poor.


Patients in small towns are not required to waste their hard-earned money in travel and neither are they required to undergo a lot of routine tests. Telemedicine can be the cheapest, as well as the fastest way to bridge the rural-urban health divide.


The concept of Telemedicine is already prevalent in hospitals such as Apollo Hospitals, Manipal Hospital Group, but they typically use it within their own hospitals for their own patients.


Requirements for Making Telemedicine Work in any Backward Area


Telephone line

Internet or fax facilities

Doctor, nurse and an attendant are also required 

Apart from the above mentioned requirements, trained professionals and sophisticated tools are also essential for proper working of the system.


Telemedicine System Mainly Consists of Two Parts

Telemedicine Unit

Base Unit 

The Telemedicine Unit is responsible for collecting and transmitting bio-signals and still images of the patients from the patient's place to the Doctor's location, while the Doctor's Unit is responsible for receiving and displaying incoming data.


PACS (Picture Archiving Communication Services) facility is nothing but digitization of diagnostic records the minute a test is completed, so the doctors can access it off a central server anytime and anywhere within the hospital.

So we can say that this is another area where patients, poor and rich, are going to be seeing a lot of progress is digitization of medical records.



In the end, we can say that telemedicine has the potential to become the biggest story of success till date in the healthcare sector. It has given ordinary doctors the capacity to do extraordinary things. Information technology is surely going to dramatically change the way healthcare is delivered to millions of people in the country.



Contributed by: -
Himanshu Arora,
Student of PGDM,
Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida.