by Suhani Dewra | 19th MARCH, 2019
A team of researchers from Share India Research Foundation at MediCiti Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, developed an effective strategy to detect Hypertensionand Diabetes which are the major causes of cardiovascular diseases. The strategy and the research findings are documented under the topic ‘Technology Enabled Non-Physician Health Workers Extending Telemedicine to Rural Homes to Control Hypertension and Diabetes (TETRA): A pre-post demonstration project in Telangana, India, that has been published in PLOS ONE international journal, which is acclaimed to be one of the world’s leading communities of researchers and reviewers that includes even Nobel laureates.
We spoke to Dr. Shailendra Dandge, professor of Pharmacology at MediCiti Institute of Medical Sciences and Researcher at Share India Research Foundation, who led the research.
Tell us about the experiment that you led, along with several other Share India researchers?
Our experiment brought in picture non-physician health workers (who we trained) who went from house to house screening people for blood pressure and sugar and collecting information of their medical history on a Tablet. We included close to 3,500 people of age above 20 in the villages of Telangana. All the information that the health workers collected in the Tablet was uploaded on Cloud to allow access to the physicians located remotely. The non-physician health workers would connect those with symptoms of Diabetes and Hypertension with a doctor at a remote location. This was facilitated using Skype call.
Also, the non-physician health workers would generate electronic prescriptions at the person’s doorstep. The health workers also carried with them a common medication for Hypertension and Diabetes.
So, this experiment made it possible for the rural population to get diagnosed for Diabetes and Hypertension, as well offered them medical help, without them having to leave their homes.
Why such serious focus on Hypertension and Diabetes?
Every fourth individual in India suffers fromHypertension and every tenth from Diabetes. It is not easy to detect Hypertension or Diabetes. Even if the conditions get diagnosed, people in the rural regions find it difficult to gain access to proper treatment centres to treat them. There are various reasons for this. One is non-availability of good healthcare centres, and another is affordability. Inadequate treatment of Hypertension and Diabetes could lead to stroke or heart disease, and various other disabilities and health issues.
How long did the complete research process take?
It was two years of work.
What actually led you to embark on this experiment?
In 2013, Dr. P.S. Reddy,Chairman of Share Indian Research Foundation and also of MediCiti Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, had convened a Cardiovascular Diseases Research Summit to discuss how we could bring down the cases of cardiovascular diseases. This idea took shape based on the discussions that took place in the Summit.
What were the challenges you faced during the research work?
The major challenge that we faced was the poor network connectivity in the villages. The experiment was largely based on tele-communication, which required a reasonable amount of network connectivity between the Tablet the non-physician health worker used and the computer the doctors used. There were frequent moments of disruption.
So, will it not be a problem in the future as well?
Our experiment was on for two years, postwhich there is now availability of 4G service even in the villages. So, the future looks challenge-free.
How did the rural population take to participating in the experiment? Did they not pose an objection?
They were open to it. Someobjected, with regard to their blood sample being collected. Some of them didn’t participate and we couldn’t force them,owing to ethical reasons. It was a voluntary involvement. Our job was only to educate them.
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