A healthy initiative in pandemic times

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has deprived the public of easy access to healthcare, the telemedicine programme of Tata Trusts, Swastha Kutumbam, based on the hub and spoke model, has enabled thousands in the rural areas of Vijayawada parliamentary constituency to get medical aid from doctors and professionals.

Ever since lockdown was imposed in view of COVID-19 pandemic, over 15,770 persons have benefited from the programme by consulting doctors through the telemedicine clinics strategically set up in 21 locations available for over one million population in about 265 gram panchayats. The programme, however, is not new to the people of the villages covered as they have been benefiting from it since February 2018 when its services were launched with an aim to provide universal access to primary healthcare.

So far, 1.63 lakh medical consultations have been taken up and a majority of them are related to diabetes and hypertension. The entire initiative has been more useful for women as among the beneficiaries they account for 55%.

“With the imposition of lockdown, clinics had to be closed. But telemedicine assistance and nurses representing the clinics have enabled us to stay in touch with the beneficiaries. When required they have been connected to doctors who offered timely advice. When the clinics were opened we had good footfall,” Tata Trusts public health consultant Turlapati Narsimhaprasad said.

Awareness drive

Dr. Narsimhaprasad said that the initiative has helped early detection of Non-Communicable Diseases among thousands of persons in the region and also many were encouraged to walk in and avail of healthcare services without any hesitation due to its approach. Continuous health awareness programmes in addition to the health camps have helped a lot, he said. Under the hub and spoke model, eight doctors at the consultation hub and 45 paramedical staff, including nurse practitioners and a mobile medical unit (MMU) supported by modern diagnostics unit, have been serving in the area.

A majority of the beneficiaries are in the age group of 26-60 years who are at the risk of having non-communicable diseases. Also, 21% of the beneficiaries are of the above 60 years age group.

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