Telemedicine initiative launched by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government gaining popularity

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PESHAWAR: The telemedicine initiative launched by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in February this year has been gaining currency due to specialised healthcare through information technology to the patients in far flung areas.

Under the initiative, patients are being examined in local facilities connected with specialist doctors sitting in Services Hospital, Peshawar.

The patients sit in front of laptops and are seen by specialists on big screens to prescribe medicines for them.

Under the programme, patients in rural areas can be checked through IT by specialists sitting in Peshawar

The main clinic of the project, started under chief secretary’s special initiative, is headquartered at the Services Hospital, Peshawar with its five spokes in designated districts, and is also source of education for local doctors, who see the patients at the rural health centres (RHC).

Dr Jamal Nasir, medical superintendent of Services Hospital, who looks after the programme, told Dawn that it was a concept but number of patients was rising as time passed because the people received standard investigation and treatment without travelling to Peshawar.

“We are hopeful that this measure will change the face of healthcare as patients are getting efficient, low cost and reliable services for their ills,” he said.

Dr Jamal said that currently five spokes in Karak, Chitral, Battagram, Swabi and Nowshera were established with provision of all basic equipment for telemedicine. He said that except Chitral where patients were being examined at the district headquarters hospital, patients in other districts were checked in RHCs. The Services Hospital Peshawar has enlisted about 50 specialists to see patients.

“We are also establishing one mobile telemedicine health unit, which will provide services to the people from different places,” said Dr Jamal. He said that initially, the number of patients was negligible but then they received 30 to 35 patients daily.

He said that the first-ever project, the brainchild of Chief Secretary Mohammad Azam Khan, was aimed at extending specialised services to the people of remote areas free of cost. He said that the main beneficiaries of the initiative were people living in remote areas, whose access to specialised healthcare had seen improvement.

“We are presently extending services to people in general medicines; obstetrics; gynaecology; ear, nose and throat; ophthalmology; psychiatry, peads; dermatology; radiology; cardiology; and general surgery. Under the programme, the patients visited the designated health centres from where they were examined by specialists sitting in Peshawar via satellite, he said.

“In this way, not only the patients benefit but the local doctors are also educated by the consultant physician. The programme allows the patients live consultation and they are advised the desired investigations, the results of which are shared with them accordingly,” said Dr Jamal.

The cost of the project is Rs95 million, of which 70 million has been released to improve basic health services to people of far flung areas through modern telecommunication infrastructure.

Dr Jamal said that information technology experts were deployed at all the telemedicine clinics to ensure proper utilisation of the equipment and software for complete profanation of patients’ data. The new technology has enabled the doctors sitting in Peshawar to hear the chest beats through stethoscopes and watch lives the ultrasound examinations of the patients.

Dr Jamal said that there were dedicated equipments for examination of different diseases. “For children and adults, we use new skills and machinery,” he added. All the advanced level medical examination equipments supported by web-based telemedicine software has been installed at all spokes. Training of concerned staff at all the spokes has been conducted.

Dr Jamal said that it was part of the initiative that patients from RHCs were referred to telemedicine clinic in Peshawar to be seen by their respective doctor. He added that the software could be extended to the whole province when the programme got acceptability among the people.

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