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National

March 9, 2018

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Punjab govt launches e-BHUs programme

LAHORE: Punjab government has embarked on an ambitious plan to launch tele-consultation programme for patients in far-flung areas of the province by connecting 250 basic health units (BHUs) to qualified doctors at a central hub in the provincial capital.

The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department in collaboration with Punjab Information Technology Board and CloudClinik, a cloud-based digital healthcare platform, has launched a pilot project in Mandi Bahauddin.

The CloudClinik, which won the Letter of Award (LoA) for being the lowest bidder, e-linked four BHUs with the central hub, where doctors are providing online consultation through live examination of distant patients on their computer screens.

The cloud that endeavours to provide quality primary care by taking advantage of the internet has already provided consultation to nearly 5,500 patients online. However, the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department is yet to award a contract to CloudClinik, which would remove the last hurdle before execution of the project in the 250 BHUs of the province.

Punjab Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Khawaja Imran Nazir inaugurated the maiden centralised hub of doctors at Infogistic, 239-CCA, Commercial Area, Phase-IV, DHA, Lahore Cantt, on Thursday. Accompanied by senior officials of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), the minister was highly appreciative of the work undertaken so far in the pilot project. He promised that the provincial government would roll out the project in 250 BHUs in the next three months.

In a presentation on the project, Sajjad Kirmani, an IT expert and founding member of NETSOL Technologies, briefed on the state-of-the-art tele-consultation regime which centres around far-flung healthcare sites. It encompasses a pool of aptly qualified doctors placed at a centralised hub.

He informed that four BHUs of Mandi Bahauddin had been enabled with tele-consultation regime. The four BHUs of Bhojowal, Bherowal, Rerkka Bala and Dhunni Kalan were linked with the centralised hub by ensuring availability of high-speed internet connectivity with foolproof mechanism put in place, based on the paraphernalia bearing cutting-edge technology with redundancy mechanism, he added.

According to Kirmani, every healthcare site is equipped with a tech savvy facilitator and an intelligent Q-management system has been put in place. The patients are greeted and treated with due respect and deserved care. The nursing staff at each BHU would take all vital signs and upload in the system for doctor’s perusal before consultation and issuance of prescription to the patient.

The doctors do not have language barriers as local dialect is being used while issuing token receipts and prescriptions. The patient turnout is recorded as well as their referrals. The patients’ history is maintained for future reference. The medicine inventory is electronically maintained; every dispensation recorded efficiently and can aid to future replenishment needs.

An automatic patient assignment system is installed on the basis of criteria of minimum wait; female patient assignment to the WMO; revisiting patient assignment to the same doctors with whom patient had prior consultation history. It is a complete software-driven system with no hardware involved. The tickers are displayed on LED screen to disseminate healthcare messages in Urdu.

“If we imagine healthcare on a 12-inch scale, the first nine inches, 75 per cent, of healthcare is routine primary care. The last three inches or 25 per cent is for costly catastrophic incidences requiring secondary or tertiary care. If we are able to identify, prevent or diagnose and treat the diseases at an early stage, it will not only give a disease pattern or any outbreaks but also lessen the burden on secondary and tertiary care level in the province. It will also serve as a cost-cutting intervention and contribute to the economy of the country,” Kirmani said.

Quoting the UNICEF’s recently released report on highest child mortality rate in the world, he said tele-consultation at BHUs would also help strengthen immunisation and vaccination to ensure mother and child health. He also revealed his plan to set up centralised hubs at divisional level during second phase of the project.

Imran Nazir said the project would also remove the long-standing complaint of people about non-availability of doctors at BHUs as qualified general physicians would attend them remotely. “This telemedicine concept will help provide consultation, diagnostic facilities and medicines at their doorsteps,” he added.

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