Reaching the unreached...
Prof. Krishnan Ganapathy
Distinguished Professor at Tamilnadu Dr MGR Medical University, India & a WHO Digital Health Expert. Past President of the Telemedicine Society of India, Neurological Society of India, and Indian Society for Stereotactic & Functional Neurosurgery. Member of the Board of Directors of Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation and Apollo Telehealth Services, and InnovaSpace Advisory Board member - Visit: drkganapathy.com
Distance is Meaningless and Geography has become History - paraphrasing Star Trek's Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner (who just flew on a sub-orbital flight on 12th October 2021 at the age of 90 years) and going where No man has ever gone before is not the prerogative of the elite 600 plus astronauts who have left the confines of Terra Firma. In an activity that would have seemed like science fiction just a few years ago, 30 Retinal Specialists have been peering into 2800 eyes a day from a distance of 175 to 350 km, and ensuring that a digitally-signed colour-coded annotated fundus report (assisted with semi-automated diagnosis) is physically provided to each villager within 25 minutes. And this has now been happening daily for the last 43 months, in a service that the beneficiary gets totally free, thanks to a Public-Private Partnership project.
An acute shortage of eye care personnel in rural India results in millions unnecessarily developing visual impairment. Early diagnosis and initiation of corrective measures remotely could be a major public health initiative, whereby the Government fills a large void by providing free, quality eye care services, including spectacles, to the community.
The Andhra Pradesh Government has now been implementing the “Mukhyamantri e-Eye Kendram-MeEK (http://enethraap.phc.ind.in/) program since 1st February 2018. This tele-ophthalmology service is one of the largest Public-Private Partnership projects. In just 43 months 1.7 million patients have had their eyes checked in 115 Eye centres located in 9 districts of Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern India. A total of 1.4 million spectacles have been ordered following 1.7 million refraction checks!
The operational challenges in providing “customer delight” to 2000 + people every day in so many rural centres is indeed a humongous task. Some 0.5 million fundus examinations have been performed remotely and abnormal pathology detected in 83,000 cases, including Diabetic Retinopathy, Hypertensive Retinopathy, Glaucoma and other pathologies.
Continuous quality control and ensuring constant compliance and adherence to strict deliverables is in the DNA of the entire fantabulous team who continued to work even during the height of the pandemic.
Obsession with perfection - where failure is not an option, making the impossible possible - these are the stuff of which astronauts and the entire extended team remotely connected with space exploration are made up of. Who knows, perhaps this project is a good recruiting ground for ISRO, ESA and NASA – after all there are a lot of similarities !!
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