August 1st, 2023; New Delhi: A single tele-medicine unit that began in May 2021 in Doha village of Haryana’s Nuh (Mewat) district grew into a project comprising of 10 units at Health and Wellness Centres in this only aspirational district of Haryana. Smile Foundation, in partnership with the Government of Haryana (District Health Administration) and supported by SBI Cards and Payment Services Limited, implemented the project in four blocks of Nuh, covering a population of one million.
The National Health Policy 2017 (NHP 2017) sets the goal of ensuring the highest possible level of health and well-being for all, through increasing access, improving quality and lowering the cost of healthcare delivery. The NHP 17 lays significant emphasis on leveraging digital technologies for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness of delivery of the healthcare services. The policy recommends a paradigm shift from the existing silos systems to a holistic and comprehensive health eco-system, founded on the latest digital architectures and technologies.
Tele-medicine is an important domain under the newly constituted National Digital Health Mission, thereby creating an enabling digital health ecosystem in the country. The National Health Authorities (NHA) has announced integration of National Telemedicine Service -eSanjeevani with its flagship scheme – Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM).
Smile Foundation, with invaluable support from the donor, decided to complement the efforts of the District Health Administration in Nuh. Developing a resilient primary healthcare system, wherein e-Arogya clinics with Tele-Medicine Kiosks, Medicine Vending Machine (MVM), training a cadre of Community Health Officers (CHO) on the grounds, and promoting the public healthcare mandates of the government were part of the collaborative project objectives.
Ten e-Arogya Clinics comprising of Tele-Medicine kiosks with Medicine Vending Machines (MVM)) were established under eight Primary Health Centres (PHCs), covering a target beneficiary of 10 lakh population in all the four sub-divisions of the district of Nuh, namely Ferozepur Jhirka, Nuh, Punhana, and Tauru.
Consultations with general physicians and specialist doctors, free distribution of medicines, screening of NCD (non-communicable disease) and referral to secondary and tertiary healthcare services are being made available to people at these e-Arogya Clinics. In addition, capacity building of the front-line workers and CHOs (Community Health officers) are facilitated by organizing need-based training programmes in consultation with Nuh district health administration.
The tele-medicine project was initiated in the district after fulfilling the infrastructural gaps through refurbishment of ten health and wellness centres, installation of solar power system ensuring round-the-clock electricity supply and internet facility supporting the uninterrupted tele-consultations. The e-Arogya clinics generate electronic health record (EHR) of the patients and also it keeps the record of non-communicable disease (NCD) that was shared with the government.
Until now, these 10 e-Arogya clinics have benefited over 35,000 individuals directly, of which 52 per cent beneficiaries are women. Community women, who could not think of going outside the village, have got the opportunity to take care of their health and wellbeing. This has also created an enabling eco-system, encouraging the communities towards availing relevant health entitlements and affirmative action as mandated by the government.
“Smile Foundation and SBI Card were associated with us for these projects. The outcomes through these telemedicine centres, the 10 e-Arogya clinics, have helped patients to avail the services of specialist consultations without having to travel far. The OPDs increased with the e-Arogya clinics and was helpful for the NCD screening and data recording. Now the integration of these centres in e-Sanjeevani will lead to steady rise in tele-consultation ensuring availability, accessibility and affordability of healthcare services in the remotest areas. We welcome such joint collaborations improving the health indicators in an aspirational district like Nuh,” said Dr. Sarvjeet Thapar, Civil Surgeon, District Health Administration, Nuh.
“We are very happy with the outcome and the efforts. Now onward, we are integrating these initiatives within the government mechanism so that it is widely adopted by community people, benefits them continuously and it remains sustainable,” said Dr. Ravi Kant Sinha, Deputy Civil Surgeon (Family Welfare).
“We thank SBI Card for supporting this innovative project and we appreciate the District Health Administration, Nuh for showing confidence in Smile Foundation. I am glad that our collective effort has shown results in the area of ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being, as envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals (SGD– 3),” said Mr. Santanu Mishra, Co-founder & Executive Trustee of Smile Foundation.
For the sustainability of e-Arogya clinics, all the 10 tele-medicine units under Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness centres are now integrated with e-Sanjeevani, the flagship National Telemedicine Service of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. These are being handed over to the district health department, Nuh. A two-day special training session has also been organized for all the Community Health Officers (CHOs) to ensure effective management of the machines and devices too.