Telemedicine in Tripura
Telemedicine, as the term suggests, is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide diagnosis and clinical healthcare to a patient from distance. It has been used to overcome distance barriers and to improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. Telemedicine is used mostly to connect doctors working with a patient in one location to specialists somewhere else. This is of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists aren't readily available.
The growth in Information Technology and internet resulted to profound changes for the practice of telemedicine. The proliferation of smart devices capable of high-quality video transmission, opened up the possibility of delivering remote healthcare to patients in their homes, workplaces or assisted living facilities as an alternative to in-person visits for both primary and specialty care. Telemedicine technology is frequently used for follow-up visits, management of chronic conditions, medication management, specialist consultation and a host of other clinical services that can be provided remotely via secure video and audio connections.
The care delivery module
Health has always been one of the priority sectors of Government of West Bengal. The Government recognized that in the delivery of health care services, particularly for the remote rural, hilly and semi-urban areas, Telemedicine could play a significant role by way of augmenting and improving the existing public health care systems and the Government has taken initiatives for deploying Telemedicine through execution of few pilot projects in the state Government Hospitals along with indigenous development of the technology.
Government of West Bengal planned to implement several Telemedicine Projects to provide specialists' services for diagnosis, investigation, monitoring, medical consultation from Medical Colleges and Hospitals/ Specialty Centres located mainly in Kolkata to a number of Hospitals in the state. The implementation of the projects was planned to be undertaken by Webel Electronic Communication Systems Ltd (Webel ECS), a State Enterprise under Dept. of IT & E, Govt. of West Bengal while the technology development activity was planned to be undertaken by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur.
Considering its effectiveness, Government of Tripura also showed interest and in the summer of 2004 in a meeting it was decided to connect a few Sub-Divisional Hospitals with two tertiary care centers in Agartala. In Tripura, Sub-Divisional Hospitals were not so well-equipped and they fell in the category of Primary Health Centers (PHC). It was felt that they have more needs than the District Hospitals for availing Telemedicine services.
To provide health services in the remote rural areas, Government of Tripura inaugurated the novel healthcare project on 9th June, 2005 that was built over a telecommunication and information technology backbone.
Inauguration of first Telemedicine Project at G. B. Pant Hospital, Tripura on 4th. Oct. 2002 by Hon'ble President of India Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
Hon'ble Sri Tapan Chakraborty, Minister Health
& FW, Govt. of Tripura inaugurating 1st Telemedicine Project in Tripura
Inauguration of a Telemedicine unit in Tripura
The uniqueness of the project lies in the fact that, this was the first project of its kind to be conceptualized and executed in a well-coordinated, multidisciplinary fashion amongst several stakeholders that included the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and WEBEL Electronic Communication Systems Limited, Kolkata.
Realizing the benefits and potentials of delivering health care services in remote places, the Government of Tripura requested for more deployment from MC & IT, resulting in the expansion of the network in three stages connecting 16 SDHs / CHCs / PHCs with their three resource centers i.e. G. B. Pant Hospital and I.G.M. Hospital & Regional Cancer Hospital.
Even after completion of the project period, the State Government proactively arranged funds from the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for maintenance of the systems and supporting trained manpower to the Telemedicine centers. During this period, software development, support and training were carried out by IIT, Kharagpur. Webel ECS Limited is the implementing agency in executing the deployment of Telemedicine system, creating infrastructure, providing technical personnel at each center for their daily operation and maintenance
Telemedicine network has been established in the following 31 hospitals:
Initially more than half of the patient referrals were for cases of general medicine. But in recent years, there has been a significant increase in number consultations in radiology and orthopaedics. In 2010-11, these three disciplines almost equally shared the load, which was around 75% of the total patient referrals.
Every year the number of patients treated through telemedicine is increasing. Last year over 7000 patients got the benefit of this technology. Over 118654 Patients were treated from June, 2009 up to 31st March, 2018.
For its outstanding contribution in Telemedicine, Webel Electronic Communication Systems Ltd has been honored with the following awards:
The National Award for e-Governance for the year 2004, by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India for exemplary implementation of e-Governance initiative on Telemedicine Project in West Bengal under the category "Outstanding Performance in Service Delivery"
The Skoch Challenger Award 2005, For the Telemedicine Project.
North East award - 2013
The Manthan-American-India Foundation Award 2006 by Government of India under E-Health Category for outstanding performance in the area of Telemedicine.