Primary health care is a cause of concern across most
developing nations. Given the massive population in India, there is always a
dearth of medical practitioners, which makes it highly challenging to offer
primary health care to people in both urban and rural areas. Hence, in an
attempt to bridge the gap between doctors and people in need of medical
attention, health kiosks appear to serve as a solution. Ram
Prabhu, cofounder and technical director
of eHealthAccess, formerly Dial Our Doctor, explains the benefits of health
Q. How can primary health care be availed
with the use of technology?
care consists of diagnostics, which includes checking pulse, heartbeat, and
functioning of other vital organs before a doctor can prescribe medication or
treatment. That aside, when a person walks into a medical facility the person
wants to meet the doctor, in person, to conduct the diagnoses. However, the
disparity in the ratio between doctors and patients makes it impossible for
doctors in urban areas to meet with people in remote locations. Therefore,
a health kiosk connects the doctor to the patient, where the patient is
virtually able to consult a real doctor and use the facilities inside the kiosk
to have the primary diagnoses carried out.
Each kiosk is equipped with
facilities to check the heartbeat, pulse and to examine inside the ears and
Q. With what technology does a health
and internet use at least a 2G signal, which is one of the reasons for such
explosion in communication even in remote locations. So, the same technology is
used to leverage health care where a doctor can be anywhere in India and yet be
able to reach people be it in a North Eastern city or a South Indian village. Doctor
and patient come together in a kiosk, which is almost similar to a doctor's
consultation room, except the virtual doctor is on the other side of the
monitor. Rest of the basic amenities to check blood pressure, heartbeat, pulse
rate, and external organs are available in the kiosk.
The otoscope in
the kiosk, which is microscopic in nature, gives focus on the area used on and
sends visuals for the doctor.
Q. Who is the target population for a
corporate sector, there is a legal mandate that an office has in-house medical
personnel when people are working in the concern. When the presence of a
general physician becomes difficult, the odds of availing a specialist are even
more complicated. A health kiosk can alleviate the complication by providing close to 10
specialists in an office.
Rural India and government can use technology
and employ the kiosks in the remote locations to bridge the gap between doctors
and patients living in far-flung areas.
Q. What kind of resource would it
consume, such as electricity, telephone connection, and internet?
for the health kiosk uses a low power battery. Basic personal computer or Intel
core will back the services. There are also two mediums used: the touch screen
and the LCD/LED monitors. Since LCD/LED consumes more electricity, in case of
power failure the inverter and UPS connected to the PC will enable the
functioning. With 3 hours of electric power, the kiosk can operate for 24 hours.
Assuming there is no power supply at all there is still solar power from which
a battery gets charged. The connecting system relies on 2G and even if that
fails, the audio system will continue to operate. In the absence of audio for
any reason, the callback feature will come in handy. The system uses Asterix
(an automated call back facility) to call the patient's mobile number. If all
other means lead to disconnection, then the doctor will call back the patient.
Q. People prefer personal encounter with
their doctors when they are ill, how will a kiosk give that satisfaction?
If the medical
facility is available and a person is comfortable with meeting the doctor, it
is ideal for the person to continue it. However at least 10 years ago, people
preferred waiting in a queue to meet with the bank employees while ATMs were
emerging amidst much skepticism. Today banks are boasting of having more ATM
counters than branches. Similarly, the kiosks will also help people to avail
primary health care at any hour according to one's convenience. These kiosks
are ideal for those in the corporate field that are used to 'chatting' to get
things done. As for the rural areas, a person in the distant location can reach
specialists such as a dermatologist or a Naturopathy or Homeopathy
If the doctor prescribes tests, people can get the tests
done at another facility.
Q. What are the other advantages of the
After a heart
surgery, a person may need to visit the doctor for regular checks; such
consultations can be done at the kiosks. Secondly, the bandwidth to operate the
video is very low. Thirdly, the kiosk manned by trained support-staff, who
operates the system and calms agitated patients, such as cases of first time
pregnancy. Fourthly, the medical reports are currently available in five
languages, English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.
patients are waiting for their results, they have opportunities to be informed
about general health by filling surveys, watching video presentations, and read
articles that engage people. Survey results can help government to pay
attention to localities that need vaccination.
Q. How would the system maintain hygiene
A. The support staff maintains
hygiene where each customer will have the equipments sanitized with covers.
There is no invasive procedure in any form such as pricking or injection or
As for maintaining privacy, the kiosk is an enclosed space.
Personal health records are private to customers with two levels of
authentication. A customer can set the security and the password protects the
records for three hours. The doctor receives the password through text message
(SMS). Therefore, the text message serves as authentication where the customer
is in complete control of the security. In rural areas, the phone number serves
as the key. The customer has to show the key to the support staff. The key can
be used only once. If the key is lost then a new key has to be generated.
The price for using the health kiosks varies
from a general physician to a specialist. Apart from the pricing, among the
many efforts taken towards genuine efforts to provide overall medical services
and with as much uniformity possible, the health kiosks sound promising.