Digitisation has progressed its way towards strengthening many sectors of our economy – taking services such as healthcare, education, and finance to the citizens in need. Perhaps one of the critical and note-worthy ones of this decade is eSanjeevani – a government run telemedicine platform. The national telemedicine service initiated by the Health Ministry has come to the aid of many suffering patients unable to visit doctors due to lockdown restrictions and transforming healthcare reaching citizens in the remotest of locations. In just over a year, the eSanjeevani telemedicine service has clocked over 50 lakh teleconsultations and caters to at least 40,000 patients daily.
Even though e-Sanjeevani was originally built to provide non-covid health care services, it swiftly transformed into a platform of great potential during this time of crisis. The states were able to quickly design processes and workflows to utilise the platform for delivering health services related to COVID-19.
The platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services for the public - eSanjeevani AB-HWC, a hub and spoke model rolled out in November 2019 under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre (AB-HWC). The program connects HWCs to primary healthcare centres like district hospitals and medical colleges, which typically cater for villages and are usually staffed with mainly health workers. So far, the program is operational in over 18,000 health and wellness centres across 22 states and has set an ambitious target of onboarding 1,55,000 HWCs by 2022.
While the revamped version of the above model Patient-to-Doctor (eSanjeevani OPD) teleconsultations provide outpatient services to citizens in the confines of their homes. The program has been rolled out in 28 states and UTs and enrolled over 350 OPDs since its inception during the first lockdown, 300 of which are specialised ones and serving over 30,00,000 patients free of cost. Many states were quick to adopt and have benefitted widely from the platform. States like Tamil Nadu have shown massive traction, recording over 10,00,000 consultations, followed by several others like Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh, who have adopted the program.
Centre for Development of Advanced Computing(C-DAC) in Mohali, the developers of eSanjeevani are working towards adding innovative features in eSanjeevaniOPD, and one such is that it will enable the rollout of National OPDs on the platform. These National OPDs will allow doctors to offer remote health services to patients in any part of the country. The new feature will help distribute resources more evenly and address some of the challenges of the overstressed healthcare system. States have even set up OPDs for monitoring and management of COVID-19 home quarantined patients. The more recent step of including retired Armed Forces Medical doctors to eSanjeevani OPD to offer online consultation is another digital health effort to mitigate the stress on the system.
The platform has allowed doctors to identify and attend to patients in the hinterland while ensuring that the patients with milder ailments do not overcrowd the primary healthcare centres. With the right execution and continuous improvements to match the patients’ needs, this citizen-friendly platform could prove to be a leading telemedicine network model.
The pandemic has exposed many flaws of our healthcare system and brought to the forefront the critical need for cutting-edge technology and innovation in the areas of public health, medicine, and wellness. With digital ushering in a significant transformation in the health space, India hopes to fix some of the big issues of delivering better patient care and improving the low doctor-patient ratio.