Apollo Hospital- Reliance Info Aim At Telemedicine

by Sunil Kumar    Sep 30, 2005

Healthcare for the masses has been a concept, which has been envisaged, preached and generally discussed. However, now it is going to be a reality. In a new initiative, Apollo Hospitals and Reliance Infocomm have joined hands to provide millions of Indians in over a hundred Indian cities access to top class healthcare.

According to the arrangement, Apollo Hospital would leverage Reliance Infocomm’s nationwide chain of 240 WebWorlds in 105 cities to offer high-quality healthcare. The Reliance WebWorlds shall offer access to the Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF). ATNF is an all-India integrated multi-speciality telemedicine system and with over 80 stations and over 2,000 in-house specialists and super-specialists, is the country’s largest such network.

The tie- up will be a major respite for people living in areas devoid of high-class medical service, as they would not no longer have to travel long distances. All they have to do is go to the nearest Reliance WebWorld and submit their medical history and diagnostic reports.

Here the reports and images would be digitized and transmitted over Reliance broadband network to the Hospital’s centralized telemedicine portal. Once this has been done, the patient’s information would be reviewed and an appointment given with the appropriate Apollo specialist. The patient comes to the WebWorld on the appointed day where the specialist ‘virtually’ meets the patient over video conferencing for a face-to-face consultation and opinion. This opinion is recorded in the Apollo Telemedicine portal and a printout given to the patient at the WebWorld at the end of the videoconference.

In an exclusive to CXOtoday, Prof. K. Ganapathy, senior consultant neurosurgeon and head Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation outlined the road ahead for this tie-up. Elaborating on the legacy systems before this initiative Ganapathy stated, “Of the 79 telemedicine units set up by ATNF active teleconsultation, 39 were from stand alone Apollo Information Centers and a few hospitals.”

Responding to a query as to what prompted ATNF and Reliance Infocomm to take up this initiative,an official from Apollo said, “A suggestion from Dr. K. Ganapathy that the large number of RWW’s(Reliance Web Worlds) already had the basic infrastructure and could be used as extended telemedicine units for Apollo since ATNF already had software for this purpose.”

When quizzed about how Apollo hospitals would leverage Reliance Infocomms nationwide chain of 240 Web Worlds in 140 cities, Ganapathy said, “Many of these 105 cities do not have tertiary hospitals or super specialists. At present patients in these areas have to travel long distances to get specialist opinion. There are also a large number of smaller towns close to these 105 cities where specialist medical care are totally non-existent. Patients now have to travel much shorter distances to reach a RWW (Reliance Web World). RWW’s are also likely to proliferate.”

Elaborating on the multi-speciality telemedicine systems, Ganapathy said, “ATNF is the only single telemedicine provider in South Asia, which has access to specialists in every single subspeciality in the medical sciences. In addition to the 2000 consultants in the Apollo group, ATNF can also provide teleconsultation with leading medical institutions of the world like Johns Hopkins (ranked number in the USA for the last 16 years), etc. While there are other telemedicine players in India their expertise is confined to single disciplines e.g. opthalmology alone or cardiology alone. In real life a patient often requires opinion from multiple disciplines”

When asked about similar initiatives across the world, Ganapathy stated, “This is the first time in the world that such a mammoth collaborative effort has ever taken place using cybercafes with state of the art communication equipment to provide access to Asia’s largest health care provider.”

“The initiative is expected to go live by the first week of October initially in 20 centers and hopefully it will be available throughout India by the third week,” concluded Ganapathy.

According to Apollo, an average individual consulting a specialist would have to spend approximately Rs 475 for a second opinion without a video conference and about Rs 975 with a video conference.

Reliance Infocomm officials told CXOtoday that currently pilots were running across 20 Reliance WebWorld locations and that Reliance Infocomm would be covering the entire 240 WebWorlds across 105 cities over the next 15-20 days. They also stated that for an all inclusive one consultation session a person would have to pay approximately Rs 1000 to Rs1100. This includes digitization of medical records and uploading it on the telemedicine system of Apollo Hospital from WebWorld, videoconferencing charges and doctor’s consultation charges.

The following services will be available at the Reliance WebWorlds and Apollo
Telemedicine Stations: tele-consultation with specialists and super-specialists at Apollo Hospitals, second opinion services relating to the diagnosis and management of a variety of clinical conditions, specialist review of investigation reports like ECG and echocardiography, apolloedoc (to seek online appointment with doctors across the Apollo Hospitals Network).

Apollo Hospitals is synonymous with providing the best medical treatment in India, while Reliance Infocomm is the country’s largest private telecom operator.

Tags: Healthcare