NEWS: CSIR and HP partner to better rural healthcare scenario by launching a cloud-enabled eHealth center

In rural India, healthcare infrastructure consists of a Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) for a population of 30,000 and a Sub-Center for every 5000 people. This healthcare model is plagued by several problems such as inexistence of tools for remote monitoring and management, lack of standardized health information that can be accessed, and inability to provide end-to-end healthcare support to distant locations due to lack of connectivity and electricity. Additionally, 89% of the rural patients need to travel approximately eight kilometers or even more for accessing basic medical facilities, according to an Indian Institute of Public Opinion study.

In order to provide affordable, primary medical facilities to remote regions that do not have access to primary healthcare, New Delhi-based Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Palo Alto, CA-based Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P (HP) have joined forces and launched a completely integrated, cloud-enabled eHealth Center (eHC) that can be deployed quickly. Located at Chausala village of Kaithal district in Haryana state, the center was inaugurated by Mr. Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Science and Technology, India and Vice President of CSIR and it saw more than 4000 patient visits within the first 100 days of its functioning.

The solution is financially supported and developed by both HP, a provider of IT solutions, and CSIR, an autonomous body that was established in 1942 and is, dedicated to industrial research and development. The solution is also part of CSIR’s 12th plan vision for Enabling Affordable Community Health through Information Technology (EACH-IT) and HP’s, Sustainable and Social Innovation programs, initiated to address social needs through sustainable solutions using intellectual, technological, human, and financial resources.

While the infrastructure, connectivity, and medical tools necessary for the eHC center are supplied by CSIR, the IT infrastructure such as a health policy dashboard, IT equipment, and cloud technology supporting EMR solutions with remote consultation and monitoring services, are furnished by HP. The center is remotely linked to and managed by Maharaja Agrasen Medical College (MAMC), an Agroha, Haryana-based organization offering medical education, healthcare and research services. O.P Jindal Gramin Jan Kalyan Sansthan, a non-profit organization focusing on health, and women and youth empowerment supported the initiative by aiding in accomplishing the required social engineering and enabling the delivery and access of the solution in the village. 3M India Limited, a science based company catering to businesses in healthcare, electro and communication, display and graphics, etc, provided specialized medical consumable kits, electronic stethoscopes, medical aseptic training, solar reflective coatings, and corrosion protection for the eHC center. Orion eServices, a company focusing on providing healthcare solutions, and mobile and web application development, integrated health cloud with medical tools and other devices, and trained the staff.

Containing a laboratory, telemedicine studio, and pharmacy, the eHC center was built using standard shipping container as it was cost-effective and easy to install when compared to bricks and mortar options and could be transported swiftly via airways, railways, or other land modes. The center also facilitates remote consultation and diagnoses utilizing in-built videoconferencing options as medical equipments that gather patient’s basic health information are integrated with eHC Health Cloud. With specialists providing remote consultation, the need for skilled physicians at isolated areas is also reduced and thus, paramedics can be employed at this center.

The eHC cloud also allows remote monitoring of the center’s operations and equipments, and decreases the equipment downtime and absenteeism. By integrating healthcare information collection and delivery process, eHC cloud also offer centralized patient health data that supports data-oriented research like surveillance of disease by tracing its risk factors and patterns. Overseeing health status of a locality and day to day utilization of the centre is made possible by an integrated eHC dashboard which offers comprehensive and understandable analytics that will also aid in healthcare policy making.

Summarizing the benefits of the new joint venture, Samir K. Brahmachari, Director General of CSIR, Chief Mentor of CSIR- Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD) Unit, and Secretary DSIR, Ministry of Science & Technology, says that the initiative will provide affordable healthcare services to patients at their doorstep and establish a platform for data-intensive discovery. CSIR, will be able to use the information from eHC to support new discoveries for developing affordable healthcare services and products.

eHealth Cloud, a type of cloud computing used for enhancing care delivery, offers customized solution for providers and enables collaboration between different healthcare organizations by integrating various healthcare applications and their voluminous, dynamic, and different data sources. Collecting patient information in a central location like e-Heath cloud can enhance the overall quality of healthcare services, patient care, lower operational cost and help organizations overcome resource shortage problem. Further, it would also support in research, strategic planning of financial resources, monitor outbreak of diseases, streamline payor’s and providers’ financial process, allow creation of data registries, and aid in carrying out clinical trials. However, eHealth Cloud also poses technical (inconsistency in availability of services, concerns related to data security, privacy and management, unreliable service and data, risk of loss of information, flexibility, scalability, maintainability, and interoperability) and non-technical (lack of standards and legislations, need for changes in business and clinical process, uncertainty related to data ownership, issues related to privacy, liabilities and loss of trust associated with data leakage, and end-users experience and usability) challenges. Hence, although eHealth cloud offers significant benefits, providers need to address the challenges associated with it before adopting and relying on it.

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mhealth + Telehealth World 2013

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