A cardiologist’s WhatsApp initiative serves as lifeline during lockdown

AJ Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on September 02, 2020

Mangaluru-based interventional cardiologist, Padmanabha Kamath

Group installs ECG machines in rural, semi-urban areas and helps identify heart-related problems of people in these remote locations

A two-year-old initiative by a Mangaluru-based interventional cardiologist, Padmanabha Kamath, to set up and operate an electrocardiography (ECG) network in remote rural areas and connect these service operators through WhatsApp has come in handy during the Covid-19-led lockdown period.

Kamath had formed ‘Cardiology At Doorstep’ (CAD), a WhatsApp group of doctors at primary health centres (PHCs) and private clinics in rural and semi-urban areas, in February 2018. The motto of the group was to install ECG machines and help identify heart-related problems. Doctors at these PHCs and private clinics record ECG readings of patients and put out the report in the WhatsApp group to obtain opinions from cardiologists. The cardiologists in the group give their opinions free-of-cost to the doctors in the group.

Kamath told BusinessLine that the lockdown has resulted in many patients were getting isolated at their homes. They were dreading venturing out for fear of Covid-19. This has led to under-reporting of symptoms related to heart diseases. So, without proper care, many of them lost their lives. Unfortunately, many succumbed to fear than to the disease.


In such a situation, CAD was able to cater to the needs of these patients in remote areas. The patients were happy to meet their doctor at a PHC or a clinic in their villages than having to travel to the city for treatment. He said CAD had set up ECG machines even at MBBS doctors’ clinics in remote rural locations.

“Our motto to give ECG machines to rural areas helped during the times of the Covid-19 pandemic. I never thought what we started in 2018 will come in handy during this worst period for humanity,” he said.

CAD WhatsApp groups received more than 2,000 ECG reports during the lockdown period (between Lockdown 1.0 and Unlock 1.0) from remote corners of the country, as most of the private clinics were closed during that period. Using these reports, doctors were able to diagnose nearly 250 heart attacks.

On the number of ECG reports the WhatsApp groups received during the lockdown, he said Bengaluru Rural district reported the highest number of cases. This was followed by Chitradurga, Bagalkot and Uttara Kannada districts.


There were only 150 doctors in the first CAD WhatsApp group when it was started in 2018. Now, Kamath operates eight WhatsApp groups with more than 2,000 members in those groups.

Of the eight CAD groups, three are exclusively for Karnataka, two each for Maharashtra and Army doctors across India, and one for the rest of India.

Asked how he manages these groups, Kamath said he has designated at least four cardiologists / physicians to manage each group even in his absence or being offline. In all, around 30 qualified cardiologists and physicians provide their opinions in eight groups.

Of these groups, two are exclusively earmarked to help the Armed forces serving the nation. Titled ‘CAD Jai Jawan’, these groups are managed by Kamath and three other senior army doctors.

Terming CAD as a teamwork, he said: “It is a combined and cohesive effort. We work like a family. It is not Dr Kamath’s or any others’ (property). All this is done without any professional fees,” he said.

The CAD initiative has helped analyse ECG reports of more than 30,000 people in the last two years, in the process helping save more than 10,000 lives.


‘Strengthen ECG network’

Urging the government to strengthen the ECG machine network in rural areas, Padmanabha Kamath said 80 per cent of heart patients can be saved if first-aid is provided to them on time. The lack of proper diagnosis due to shortage of ECG facility in rural areas is one of the reasons for the fatality.

CAD’s initiative has helped in the installation of around 250 ECG machines at PHCs, urban health centres, and at the places of some general practitioners in 20 districts of Karnataka.

For an ECG machine to be installed at a general practioner’s premises, the doctor should be practising in a rural area and be genuinely interested in serving the people.

Typically, if CAD sees that an ECG machine has remained idle for three months at a location, it is relocated to another location that needs its services more urgently. Thus, CAD strives to put these machines to good use at all times.

Kamath hopes that with the help of the Government and support from NGOs, the CAD initiative can be taken to the remaining 10 districts in the state.

Published on September 01, 2020

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