Telemedicine makes CSCs popular in Ajmer

CSCs offer free telemedicine consultation to villagers in collaboration with a private hospital

pratap

Pratap Vikram Singh | August 17, 2013



Mahesh Joshi, 55, is a postmaster in Dhasook village panchayat. He is suffering from a heart ailment and has been consulting a doctor based in Ajmer, 70 km away from his village. Every time he feels uneasy or has a slight pain in the chest, he has to go to the town, which costs him at least Rs 500 and a whole day. This time when Joshi felt uneasy, he didn’t go to Ajmer. He walked in to a telecentre, close to his residence. The telecentre has recently started offering telemedicine consultations, wherein the patients at the centre are connected to a senior doctor in Medanta hospital, Gurgaon, through video-conferencing. 

During one of such consultations, a senior doctor from the Gurgaon hospital advised Joshi to start taking a medicine which helps in thinning blood. Before advising Joshi, the doctor had gone through his medical history and medication slips, which were scanned and sent to her in advance by the telecentre operator.

A month later, he is feeling better, said Joshi’s son Pankaj, who had come to the telemedicine facility for a skin problem of his own. The Joshis didn’t have to pay for the medical consultation.

The telemedicine facility in Dhasook village panchayat is also being provided in 29 other panchayats in the Arain block of Ajmer.

The initiative is part of a pilot which was rolled out in April in the Arain block of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. The pilot involved connecting telecentres, which have been located in panchayat premises in Arain, with the national optical fibre network (NOFN).

The telecentre in Dhasook is among one lakh such centres, according to the department of electronics and information technology (DeitY), set up across six lakh villages. The centres, which were set up under the national e-governance plan (NeGP), are expected to become the front-ends for delivery of public services. Though many of these centres have been struggling for a reliable connectivity, the centres in Arain block have been provided with 100 Mbps connectivity. The telecentre consultation is one of the high-bandwidth applications which are being tried and tested. If materialised, this could be scaled, after complete roll-out of NOFN, which has been piloted in three blocks – one each in Rajasthan, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.      

The pilot in Arain seems to be a success in view of the popularity of these telecentres in the village community.

Thanks to a number of educational institutions, government agencies and corporate philanthropy, the CSCs in Arian block are also imparting skill development and computer literacy training – increasing the employability of the village youth.

One similar programme empowering the young women is the online fabric painting programme being offered in all the CSCs in Arain. The course material and training is being provided by Amrita university. A team of trainers from the university visited Arain to train a master trainer in each of the CSCs. As of now, batches of 8-10 women are undergoing training in CSCs in Arain.

According to the young women undergoing training, this has provided them an opportunity to learn something new. Parinita Sharma, one of the students learning fabric painting, says after the training, she will design her clothes and bed sheets. She adds that in future if she excels in design and painting, she will explore if the same could be sold in the market. She says that though the training is for free, she and her friends will not mind paying if similar training is provided for cooking and running a beauty parlour. Sharma is a first-year B.Com student at a college in Kishangarh.

A similar programme on digital literacy for women and household is being run in parallel by the ministry of women and child development and national institute of electronics and information technology (NIELET), respectively.

When a student completes the training programme, these agencies pay the CSC operator, the village-level entrepreneur, between Rs 200 and Rs 500. However, there is no such incentive for providing telemedicine services. According to officials with DeitY and Medanta, a workable business model is presently being worked out.  

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