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India's foray into telemedicine face difficulties

India's attempts to make a foray into the world of telemedicine has not made much headway, especially due to foreign data processing laws and difficulties in certification of qualifications of Indian telemedicine providers, the Planning Commission has said. Rising costs and dearth of medical personnel have created pressures for public health care providers in developed countries to explore the possibility of electronic delivery of services across the borders and they looking for opportunities to outsource diagnostic services to private health care providers. What is relevant is the emergence of opportunities for Indian service providers to supply telemedicine services to developed countries in such segments as diagnostics, dermatology, opthalmology and psychiatry, a high-level group of the Commission observed in a report. The group notes that a number of telemedicine centres are already operating in the country. In 2001, the Indian Space Research Organisation launched a pilot project that connects 78 hospitals in remote areas to super speciality hospitals in the cities. In a recent study it has been reported that supply of telemedicine services from India has not taken off in a big way, except to the United States and Singapore. The client base of telemedicine business in the US has increased in recent years to scores of hospitals and the National Healthcare Group of the Singapore has tied up with Indian telemedicine institutes for providing teleradiology services to designated hospitals in Singapore, the study said. The potential with respect to the European Union has not been translated into actual business as yet on account of a number of factors such as data protection laws of EU members states and difficulties in certification of qualifications and accreditation of Indian telemedicine providers by the authorities in EU member states. There are issues as well that come in the way such as malpractice policies, liability insurance and jurisdiction issues for settling disputes that might arise. One of the main problems impeding growth of supply of telemedicine services by Indian service providers is the large variation in the quality of medical professionals with graduate and post-graduate qualifications produced by institutions across the country, which is a major constraint in receiving recognition from oversees medical authorities, the report said. However, with the government's decision to recognise degrees from foreign universities of English speaking countries, the problem would be addressed to a large extent. Telemedicine has also opened up possibilities of professionals providing expert healthcare services in remote rural areas from their locations in cities, the report said.
Source: economic times

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