The telemedicine network, which began in 2001 on an experimental basis, is aimed at linking remote or rural district hospitals with super-speciality hospitals in major cities via INSAT (Indian satellite system).
While the ISRO provides the software, hardware and communication equipment with satellite bandwidth, the speciality hospitals offer their infrastructure and manpower and maintain the system.
The telemedicine service has matured into an operational system, covering 165 hospitals, including 132 remote or rural district hospitals or health centres connected to 33 speciality hospitals in major cities.
According to ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, the telemedicine programme is an example of societal orientation of the Indian space programme.
Many speciality hospitals, besides state governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), have shown interest in establishing the network to extend quality healthcare to the rural population.
Highlighting the agency's efforts in setting up village resource centres (VRCs) with NGOs, trusts and state and central agencies, Nair said the VRCs should also provide space-enabled information related to natural resources, tele-education, farmers' advisory services and tele-fishery.
With branches in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Sikkim, the Manipal hospital caters to the needs of rural patients, while the Ganga Ram hospital has adopted government community health centres at taluk (sub-district) level in Haryana and Rajasthan.
The Ganga Ram hospital is also planning to integrate telemedicine in VRCs in the two northern states and participate in the scheme, 'Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas' (PURA), as envisioned by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
The Madras Diabetic Research Foundation has set up a mobile telemedicine unit for villages around Chennai, while Venkatrao Dawle Medical Foundation's mobile telemedicine unit covers rural population of southern Maharashtra, the statement added.