Why mobile phones have helped raise the public health levels in India

Technology has lifted the levels of healthcare across the globe.

Now days sophisticated technology like endoscopy and robotics have helped surgeons perform non-    invasive procedures and improve the prognosis of the patients. While high end technology has helped   medicine, low end technology has revolutionized the public health infrastructure and preventive care   in the country. At the fore front of this revolution is the humble mobile phone.

Yes it is the low end mobile phones and not the always in the news smart phones that have brought about a sea change in care in rural India. A good example was the E-Mamta project that is running in Gujrat and being piloted in other parts which extensively depends on the SMS to drive patient registration. For more on E-Mamta please click here. As early as 2007, a pilot was rolled out in Northern India, where consultation over mobile phone was offered for primary care.

In the seven months that the pilot ran, more than 700 calls were received and more than 80 % of the respondents were satisfied with the medical advice and went to resume normal lives after following the treatment guidelines. Average duration of the call was around 3 minutes. For more on the pilot please read here.

A typical rural worker receives Rs 125 under NREGA. If he leaves work to visit a health center in a near by town then not only does he lose his minimum wages but also has to pay extra for transport and meals which accounts for 20-30 Rs more. So the cost for medical treatment though offered free comes to about Rs 150. As opposed to this consultation over the phone or over SMS would relieve the patient the unnecessary need to travel for long distances. The system though cheap has its limitations and can be used only for the very basic of conditions. India has almost 900 million mobile phone subscribers and this number could be used to deliver a robust public health infrastructure. In India as always Low Tech is a much more effective alternative than hi Tech.

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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