Chennai-based Fortis Malar Hospital is looking to offer telemedicine services in Africa and Iraq.

“We are in advanced stages of talks with hospitals in these countries. Telemedicine centres will come up in the next three to four months,” said Vijayarathna. V, Zonal Director. (Telemedicine involves the adoption of telecommunication and information technologies to offer health care consultation from a distance.)

While these countries have basic and secondary levels of medical care, they lack in specialised tertiary care, said Vijayarathna.

“But awareness is quite high among people about the kind of medical attention they need — that is the reason they travel abroad.”

Connectivity

While connectivity and bandwidth are no longer major constraints, “it is important to tie up with the right local partner who can churn out medical data of patients, based on which our doctors can offer consultation and second opinions,” he said.

After an initial telemedicine consultation, patients can then opt for travel to India for treatment.

Time saved

“This way, there is already a fair bit of interaction between the clinician and patient. Otherwise, the investigation has to start from scratch when the patient comes to India for treatment. This also helps cut down on the duration of stay.”

Telemedicine centres will come up in Nigeria and Burundi, to start with, followed by Iraq.

Vijayarathna expects people requiring specialised treatment for heart, spine and joint replacements to make use of the set-up.

Currently, around 10 per cent of Malar’s revenues comes from international patients, mainly from Nigeria and Iraq. According to Vijayarathna, the number of international patients, growing each year, is expected to get a boost with the telemedicine centres.

Apollo Hospitals too offers telemedicine services in Africa and is keen to expand its network this year.

(This article was published on August 16, 2012)
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