Monday, June 21, 2010

Public Partnership- Mobile Healthcare India

Was busy the last weekend preparing for the GTF conference in Delhi.You can learn more about this by clicking on the emblem on the left . Government Transformation Forum is first of its kind forum aimed at enhancing collaboration and exchange of learning practices among the industry, academia, civil society organizations and the public sector in India. Through this forum, the organizers intend to keep the stakeholders abreast of the latest trends and cutting edge technologies so that the e‐Government programs are designed keeping in view the needs of the next generation. You can expect a lot of action here...

I was thinking while discussing the mobile health care concept with my peers, that if in case my Medical Insurance can't give me freedom from long waiting periods; my prescription delivered at home; Nurse and physiotherapy facility and continuous monitoring for my old parents and Real time Emergency Response in seconds, probably I will not opt for one.

But in India, is it too much to ask for??

Well, to cite a feasible example, Jon Pearce and his partners have created a technology called Zipnosis, which allows patients to get diagnosed and treated for minor health issues using a computer or mobile device. They call it “Health Care in Your Pocket.”

The process they’ve created is quite simple. The patient arrives at the site-->A series of questions are asked—>>>similar to what a patient might be asked in a normal office visit—>>that should take about five minutes to answer. This first step is referred to as “bullet-proof medical.” He means that the questions are designed to give a medical clinician the information they need to diagnose the problem—without the need for a physical examination.(Applicable for a few diseases only but can be lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, asthma, hypertension, arthritis to start of with.)

After the patient has submitted their answers, Zipnosis sends a text-based communication back to one of their on-call clinicians. The clinicians usually will have one of three general responses:

(1) suggesting an over-the-counter medication and get-well plan;

(2) prescription for an antibiotic; or

(3) a recommendation to see a physician for further examination.

Lastly, the patient receives a response from the clinician regarding their diagnosis and recommendation.

If a medication is prescribed, a map will be presented, indicating where the closest pharmacy is located, based on the GPS location of the patient.

This means that a patient could be almost anywhere when they receive their diagnosis. If I live at Karol bagh but when I am seeking help I might be driving close to Aurangzeb Road and thus would be looking at a pharmacy within 800 meters from there, once a prescription is received.

Now the Question is, who will enforce something like this in India...and through what?

Telecom Operators are "the king" in India. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is planning to introduce spectrum audit to ensure efficient use of spectrum by telecom operators. Now what is the meaning of Efficient? Government is the only entity that can enforce Health, Prevention, Reach and Outgrowth. 6.2 MHz spectrum is available in 2G in most of the cities while in metro cities 10 MHz is available. The word efficiency clearly indicates:

1. Smaller number of operators. (New operators are coming up and ready to give 3G Spectrum linked one time fee)(Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), stand to lose tens of thousands of crore if the government accepts suggestions Trai to charge 3G-linked one-time prices for spectrum already allocated to these firms many years ago.)

2. If we talk about taking mobile health to Rural India the government should implement this with Telecom operators by giving subsidies to private operators rather than a centrally owned government authority being given the responsibility to do that.

3. The Rural India- On a per circle basis, it is clear that India’s growth largely depends on rural demand and how fast mobile operators can connect the unconnected. Nevertheless, even though we believe there is clear evidence that 3G can help to bridge the so-called 'digital divide' in India, it will take time for mobile operators to develop users’ appetite for data services. A number of factors will influence the rate of adoption, but pricing is the most important.

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