Attendees: Andrew, Achintya, Dhawal ,Prashanth, Venky
Topic: Healthcare in India
Prashanth led the discussion on Public Health Care in India.
Following points were discussed in the first part of the discussion
· Structure of the public health care system
· Statistics concerning poverty, population, distribution of health care units – public/private in rural and urban areas, geographic distribution of life expectancy of males and females - interesting note on how literacy seemed to be related to the average female life expectancy as compared to males.
· Discussion on alternative medicine – significance in the rural areas. Certain initiatives by NGO’s to further train these practitioners.
· Medical insurance is currently not affordable. The system is also not so friendly in the sense that patients need to pay up front and then get reimbursed.
Second part focused mainly on the impact that telemedicine could have especially in the rural areas where proper medicare is largely unavailable.
· Some case studies of initiatives by organizations like Aravind Eye Hospital (Prof Eric Brewer from CS is involved in this), Apollo hospital, ISRO, Ministry of IT etc.
· Question on the feasibility of telemedicine. Major issue being the infrastructure. Costly to have video based telemedicine. Discussed on the feasibility of using mobile phones – for ex could send photos of the patient etc – a similar initiative for farmers in terms of consultation for agriculture seems to be a huge success in places like Gujarat. Theres also research (dexternet project) on having continuous monitoring of patients by having sensors on their body and sending the info via mobile phones. Though this is more of a luxury, cheaper versions could possibly be implemented.
· Need to train some people in villages for telemedicine to be a success. Whats the right amount of training is another major issue considering that many of them shift to urban areas if trained very well!!! This gives rise to the question why doctors don’t stay in rural areas? Is the urban area more promising in terms of job prospects and standard of living? This seems to be true in case of the first tier and second tier hospitals. Again unless the medical practitioner has made a name for himself, his prospects in the urban areas might be much lesser due to the competition. Interestingly there are studies that show that villagers are willing to pay more for the same medical services due to the other ancillary costs involved in trying to get access to these facilities outside the village.
Thus overall there seems to be a business case for telemedicine and for doctors to start looking towards the “rural market”. A simple model like call centers with doctors and patients consulting over phones and other existing infrastructure in the villages might have a huge impact.
The PPT is in the attachment.