“The Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences was one of the earliest users of wireless telemedicine technology in the country,” stated Dr. Prem Nair, Medical Director, at the panel discussion on Wireless in Healthcare during ACWR 2011.
Describing himself as an enthusiastic end-user, he provided specific examples where wireless telemedicine helped Amrita provide humanitarian relief.
“We have used telemedicine for diagnostic purposes in remote tribal areas. In one instance, we sent out a technician with an echo-cardiography machine. This machine was linked via satellite to our Amrita hospital. We were able to screen large numbers of tribal people for cardiovascular defects, without ever having to send a cardiologist there. This remarkable feat was made possible by wireless technology.”
Describing other examples from North Eastern and Himalayan regions of India as well as the Andaman and Nicobar islands and Africa, Dr. Prem painted a comprehensive picture of how wireless technology and telemedicine used by Amrita brought relief to many.
Dr. Deborah Estrin, Associate Editor of ACM Transactions on Sensor Networks, put forth another perspective. “The hard part is the preventive side of health care. I don’t think we understand that problem well enough to say that its a mobile app solution,” she said.
Dr. Dinesh Bhatia, Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Texas at Dallas, added, “In the US, the top three diseases that account for the largest dollar expenditures are cardiovascular, pulmonary and diabetic disorders; the underlying cause for all of these is obesity.”
As the discussion continued, it was clear that panelists sought answers to fundamental questions, not limiting themselves only to advanced wireless technology.
Some applications that were discussed included the use of mobile phones to collect and transmit clinical patient data to central servers to enable effective patient monitoring.
The previous day, at the inauguration, Dr. Chidambaram had called for greater academia-industry collaboration. Sharing their insights at this panel discussion were also two participants from industry – Bala Santhanam from Intel and Dilip Krishnaswamy from Qualcomm.
“One big question with wireless healthcare is, who pays for the service?” Dilip asked. “If your clinical data is being continuously transmitted, who is paying for those bits going on the wireless network?”
Answering from a Western perspective, he said that patients might expect insurance companies to support these costs, but insurance companies might deem this to be a service worth extending to only very high-risk patients at this time.
Bala from Intel spoke from his experience in implementing rural healthcare in India.
“We need to provide basic services to people first, before thinking of continuous monitoring. We need to adopt end-to-end thinking, and not just consider the sensor or the sensor node or the communication protocol alone.”
“Is privacy going to be an impediment in adopting wireless technologies?” one delegate asked.
“No,” replied Dr. Deborah. While some panelists concurred with her, others disagreed.
The panel chair, Dr. Bipin Nair made some interesting closing remarks.
“Wireless technologies are great, but it is still people and processes that provide healthcare. We have a long way to go before wireless technologies can provide the answers. But it looks like we have started to move ahead in the right direction.”
December 21, 2011
Wireless Technologies for Humanitarian Relief
Dr. Venkat Welcomes ACWR 2011 Delegates
ACWR 2011 Inaugurated
Dr. Paula Bohr at ACWR 2011
Swamiji’s Address at Inauguration of ACWR 2011
ACWR 2011 Delegates Meet Chancellor Amma
Disaster Relief at ACWR 2011
Keynote Speeches at ACWR 2011
ACWR 2011 Concludes