According to a recent World Bank study India is the world’s second most populace country with over 1.1 billion people currently residing in the nation. In 1983, India initiated its first National Health Policy with an ambitious goal to provide Health for All by the year 2000 through comprehensive primary health care services. However, given the country’s vast geographic spread, increasingly large population, and inadequate rural infrastructure, trying to make health care accessible to all has presented seemingly insurmountable challenge
Consider the following statistics:
-Over 72% of India’s population lives in its 638,588 rural villages
-Government spending on health care is 0.9% of GDP while the WHO recommended figure is around 5%
-India has approximately 5.97 physicians and 7.9 nurses per 10,000 of its population while the global norm is 22.5. Of these, 75% of medical specialists live and work in urban areas
-There are approximately 0.19 hospital beds per 1,000 patients in India’s rural areas
-66% of Indians do not have access to critical medicine
Given the lopsided distribution of specialists in India the increasing use of telemedicine techniques is helping to supply needed physicians in areas where there were none before. Large-scale use of telemedicine has been utilized in India since 2001 to help address the carnage caused by a substantial earthquake in the state of Gujarat. The disaster brought upon a e-health management system that allowed for the electronic transfer of medical needs, data, and enabled medical professionals to provide consultations from far away locations through video-conferencing. More recently, local physicians in the rural Bidar disrict of India have been using the iPhone to connect with experts in Bangalore for screening and diagnosis of retinopathy of prematurity which is a potentially blinding condition. Fore more information on the use of telemedicine in India check out this article.