The Karnataka Telemedicine Project was inaugurated today (April 8, 2002) by Shri S M Krishna, Chief Minister of Karnataka at a function organised at Narayana Hrudayalaya, Hosur Road, Bangalore. Dr K Kasturirangan, Chairman, ISRO, presided over the function. Dr H Sudarshan, Chairman, Karnataka Task Force on Health was the Guest of Honour. Dr Deviprasad Shetty, Cardio Thoracic Surgeon & MD of Narayana Hrudayalaya described the Tele-medicine concept and demonstrated the working of the network connecting Narayana Hrudayalaya with the District Hospital at Chamarajanagar and Vivekananda Memorial Hospital, Saragur in HD Kote Taluk.

One of the recent applications of space technology initiated by ISRO is in the field of Tele-medicine to provide expert medical services to the rural and remote areas. Under the Tele-medicine project, Hospitals/health centres in remote locations are linked via INSAT satellites with super specialty Hospitals at major towns/cities, bringing in connectivity between patients at remote end with the Specialist Doctors for medical consultations and treatment. Tele-medicine pilot projects are undertaken by ISRO with the involvement of selected super specialty Hospitals located in major cities and smaller health centres in distant and rural areas.

The Karnataka Telemedicine Project inaugurated today links Chamarajanagar District Hospital and Vivekananda Memorial Hospital (an NGO run Health Unit) at Saragur in HD Kote Taluk with Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore. The project is undertaken in cooperation with Narayana Hrudayalaya, a super specialty Hospital for heart care in Bangalore. The Karnataka Task Force on Health and Government of Karnataka have extended cooperation and support.

Tele-medicine system consists of customized medical software integrated with computer hardware, along with diagnostic instruments connected to the VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) at each location. Generally, the medical record/history of the patient is sent to the Specialist Doctors, who will in-turn study and provide diagnosis and treatment during video-conference with the patient’s end.

Tele-medicine helps patients in rural and distant areas to avail timely consultations of Specialist Doctors without going through the ordeal of travelling long distances. The facility enables transmission of patient’s medical records including images, besides providing live two-way audio and video link. With the help of these, a Specialist Doctor can advise a Doctor or a paramedic at the patient’s end on the course of treatment to be followed. He can even guide the Doctor during a surgery. In the context of rural and distant areas, the Tele-medicine-based medical care is also highly cost effective.

Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore is a super specialty hospital for heart care. Through its Tele-medicine facility, supported by ISRO, Narayana Hrudayalaya has extended Tele-cardiology consultations to over 2000 patients. The District Hospital, Chamarajanagar, has 70 beds and 15 Doctors. It has capacity to treat over 250 out patients a day. The hospital has facilities for general medical and surgical treatments. An ICU for cardiac care has been recently introduced which has been integrated with Tele-medicine facility for providing specialty care to patients from all over the District. Vivekananda Memorial Hospital, Saragur in H D Kote Taluk is run by an NGO – Swamy Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM). It was set up in 1984 by a group of young Doctors for serving the tribal and rural population in the region. The hospital, at present, has 7 Doctors and treats over 50 out patients a day. The new 40-bed hospital complex with enhanced facilities and emergency care is getting ready for service.

Karnataka State Remote Sensing Applications Centre (KSRSAC), which was established in 1989, is coordinating the Tele-medicine project in Karnataka. KSRSAC, which is already using the Indian Remote Sensing satellite for resources monitoring and management, has plans to expand the space applications in Karnataka, especially, in the fields of e-governance, e-education, etc. The centre will also expand the Tele-medicine network in Karnataka to include more hospitals.

The inauguration of Tele-medicine Project in Karnataka marks yet another milestone in ISRO’s effort to bring the benefits of space technology to the people at grassroots level.