President Kalam Thursday called upon doctors to serve in rural areas for at least three to four years and underlined the need to make quality healthcare services accessible and affordable to the poor.
He was speaking after commissioning India's first tele-radiology network at the Kakarla Subba Rao Radiological and Imaging Educational Sciences Trust (KREST) here that aims to provide radiology services in rural areas at minimum cost.
Experts will, under the tele-radiology network, offer advice on radiology images of patients sent from hospitals in rural areas and provide instant consultation.
The president said tele-radiology would become an important tool for outreach to rural citizens.
"Tele-radiology opens up new opportunities for providing quality healthcare to people in the remotest areas and development of skill in the country," he said.
"The inherent benefit of digital imaging as a diagnostic tool and tele-radiology should be taken as an opportunity for reaching out to the un-reached in a cost effective manner. This would need the Indian medical equipment industry to gear up for designing and manufacturing DICOM compatible X-ray and other imaging equipment which can be used optimally in conjunction with tele-radiology," said Kalam.
He said India was importing medical equipment to cater to the requirements of its billion-plus population.
"The cost must come down drastically. Simultaneously, while we consider the saving due to the films (imaging) and other forms, the life time cost will become affordable to the common man," he said.
Pointing out that India has less than 6,000 radiologists, he said the introduction of tele-radiology would not only enable efficient utilisation of this scarce expertise but also enable training and continuing education of radiologists throughout the country.
The tele-network has been developed by KREST in partnership with Care Foundation, US Electronics and Electronics Corp of India Ltd (ECIL). It has connected Hyderabad's Care Hospital to the Maa Scan and Research Centre in Guntur and another diagnostic centre.
Eminent radiologist Kakarla Subba Rao said it was proposed to establish connectivity with 10 diagnostic centres in a year and 50 centres across India by 2009.