Expanding Medical Reach – Spring Quarterly Newsletter 2015
How do you reach millions of people who are in need of affordable health care with only one hospital, one mobile center and limited staff? IGL’s Sharon Hospital has been struggling to resolve this dilemma.
Currently in India, 75 percent of the population lives in rural villages, but 75 percent of the doctors are based in urban areas, leaving an estimated three doctors and four nurses available for every 10,000 people living in rural India. Most of the 851.5 million rural Indians lack access to basic health care facilities. The Indian Government spends just four percent of the country’s annual Gross Domestic Product on health (compared to the nearly 18 percent in the United States), and little of this spending reaches remote rural areas. The poor infrastructure of rural health centers makes it impossible to retain doctors in villages where they feel isolated.
Meeting the Demand
To cope with the high demand for affordable and accessible health care, IGL initiated the use of Tele-medicine units. The Sharon Tele-medicine Centers (STeM) are a pioneer project that will operate out of Life Centers in rural villages, connecting patients with a doctor at IGL’s Sharon Hospital who provides diagnoses and care instructions. Tele-medicine may turn out to be the most cost effective, as well as the most efficient, way to bridge the rural-urban health divide. To list just a few of the cost benefits:
- Reduced cost of service delivery
- Easy and quick access to specialized health care
- Cost effective pre and post treatment consultation
- Elimination of travel time and cost
- Enhanced quality and efficiency
- Prevention of maltreatment by unqualified doctors
How it works
The Life Center will be equipped with a web camera, a mini clinical lab with basic diagnostic facilities, a consultation area and a Tele-medicine unit with a nurse, lab technician and/or supportive staff operating the equipment and carrying out the doctor’s instructions.
The Tele-medicine system creates a virtual medical consultation where the nurse becomes the eyes, ears and hands of the remote medical expert stationed at Sharon Hospital. This involves collecting the necessary information, such as medical history, blood pressure, heart rate and so on, for diagnoses and helping to implement any necessary treatments.
For example, when a patient arrives at the center, the nurse will call the doctor with the patient’s symptoms. The doctor may talk with the patient over the web camera to gain a better understanding of the problem then, if necessary, may ask the nurse to do some further testing. The nurse can even transmit the data (heart rate, blood pressure and ECG readings) through electronic equipment at the facility to the doctor at Sharon Hospital.
After receiving all the necessary medical information, the doctor can prescribe medicine and a treatment plan for the patient. If the patient needs further medical attention, the patient will be referred to Sharon Hospital and given the next level of treatment, for further diagnoses or surgery. Otherwise, the patient will be treated by a local nurse according to the doctor’s orders. The Tele-medicine center also provides health awareness, basic clinical laboratory tests and medicines at an affordable cost.
IGL’s first Tele-medicine center was launched in August 2014. So far 534 patients have received medical care through this center. IGL plans to set up five more Tele-medicine centers this year – two mobile and three stationary. By 2020, if IGL is able to reach its goal of establishing 25 Tele-medicine centers, the impact would be incredible: an estimated 150,000 people would receive affordable care throughout 50 rural villages, providing an estimated 75,000 people with timely life-saving surgeries, medical treatment and early diagnoses. IGL also plans to train 40 young people from rural areas in Tele-medicine care every year.
If you are interested in partnering with us to expand IGL’s medical reach with Tele-medicine care, please donate online or call our office at 888.352.4451. And would you pray about building one Tele-medicine center for $4,900 or supporting one Tele-medicine center with staffing and maintenance for one year for $17,000?