Enhancing the Reach of Health Care Through Telemedicine: Status and New Possibilities in Developing Countries

Enhancing the Reach of Health Care Through Telemedicine: Status and New Possibilities in Developing Countries

Surya Bali (All India Institute of Medical Sciences Bhopal, India)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2621-6.ch019
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Healthcare sector is now using telemedicine solutions to increase the reach of its services to population. Target areas are highly sparsely distributed devoid of basic amenities which makes the job of Governments difficult. Further people don't have enough disposable income to travel long distances and take preventive health care from urban areas. Problems are uniformly the same across the developing countries. The mindboggling developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) particularly the web based technologies have opened up exciting new possibilities for health care across the world. These developments have evoked significant policy response in developing countries where the quality of health care is poor, resources are scarce and demands have to be immediately met. Telemedicine is gradually coming up as a viable policy option for the Governments in developing countries. This chapter gives an account of the telemedicine initiatives taken in India, describes emerging regional cooperation and its contribution for Sustainable Development Goals.
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India, with its huge population of more than 1 billion and diverse geography that includes inaccessible hilly regions, tribal areas, deserts, coasts and islands, has long been struggling to provide minimum required health care to the people. The existing healthcare infrastructure is largely urban based. About 75% of health infrastructure, medical man power and other health resources are concentrated in urban areas where 27% of the populations live (Patil et al 2002). Government supported three tier healthcare delivery system with limited medical experts and resources, is unable to provide healthcare facilities to the rural population (constituting about 70% of India's population).Further, most of the specialists are located in the urban areas and are reluctant to serve in the rural areas due to lack of basic amenities.

Contagious, infectious and waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, amoebiasis, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, worm infestations, measles, malaria, tuberculosis, whooping cough, respiratory infections, pneumonia and reproductive tract infections dominate the morbidity pattern, especially in rural areas. However, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, blindness, mental illness, hypertension, cardio vascular disorders, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, accidents and injuries are also on the rise (Patil et al, 2002 ; MOHFW, 2016). There is no health insurance policy and the common people are unaware of basic healthcare problems such as sanitation, hygiene, malnutrition, family planning, prevention, and preventive health. As India is struggling with these basic issues, new challenges of chronic diseases mostly cardiovascular illnesses and diabetes are creeping in due to changing life styles. There is growing threat of epidemic of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, Chicken guinea etc. Providing healthcare and disease prevention to India’s growing population is a challenge in the face of limited resources (MOHFW, 2016).Poor health care systems have adversely affected India’s pursuit for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has significantly lowered important developmental indicators like life expectancy (63 years), infant mortality rate (80/1000 live births), maternal mortality rate (438/100 000 live births).

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