March 24th 2015 was indeed a red letter day in the history of India’s healthcare system. It was exactly 15 years ago, on this day, Bill Clinton, the then US President formally commissioned the world’s first VSAT enable hospital at Aragonda in Andhra Pradesh, India. This event marked the formal introduction of Telehealth Services in India. To mark this occasion, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF), the largest and oldest multispecialty Telemedicine Network in South Asia organized a public event. Sri. Kiran Kumar, Chairman of the Space Research Organization was the Chief Guest and Dr. Marthanda Pillai, National President of India Medical Association was the Guest of Honour. In his welcome address, Mr. K. Ganapathy, Founder President, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, Past President Neurological Society of India and Past President Telemedicine Society of India through a powerpoint presentation took the enthralled audience on a 15 year journey. He pointed out that today Apollo Telemedicine has carried out 92,000 teleconsults, in 25 specailities through 153 telemedicine centers. Apollo Telemedicine has also connected with 8600 Common Services Centers (government of india project www.csc.gov.in). In February 2012, Apollo had carried out the world’s largest telecamp at Ajmer North India. 527 teleconsults in 13 specialties were enabled on the Hospital-on-Wheels in 2 days. The “I-SEE-U” initiative which enable highly secured virtual visits to the intensive care unit from anywhere in the world, won the 2014 HiMSS Asia Pacific ICT Innovation Award. Promoting health literacy the e-Way ATNF in 44 sessions has created awareness amongst 9800 inhabitants of internet enabled villages. Pointing out the fact the telehealth is the only solution to bridge the urban-rural health divide, the 250000 strong Indian medical association (IMA) declared March 24th as IMA National Telemedicine Day. Dr Marthanda Pillai, National President in his address reiterated that IMA will be using its network, infrastructure and resources, spread the message that today distance is meaningless and that geography has become history. Dr. KK Aggarwal, honorary secretary general of IMA who was unable to be present also confirmed that IMA would work closely with the Apollo group to impart training on telehealth to its members. Dr. Prathap Reddy, Founder, Chairman Apollo Hospital Group stressed the urgent necessity of using ICT to make available specialists virtually where none exist at the moment. Ms. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Group, moderated an interesting panel discussion in which Dr. Dinesh Tyagi, CEO, CSC, Government of India, Dr. B.S. Ratta, President, Telemedicine Society of India. Dr. Selvakumar, Vice Presidnet, Telemedicine Society of India and Sri. Satyamurthy, Past President, Telemedicine Society of India participated. Mr. Vikram THaploo, Ceo, ATHS and HNG proposed the vote of thanks. Declaration of March 24th as IMA National telemedicine day certainly augurs’ well for the future growth and development of telehealth in India by creating the awareness so essential for wide spread implementation.
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