The Mithi Telemedicine was a social ICT project initiated and completed in 2013. This project was aimed to utilize the existing infrastructure of information and communication technology in a rural setting to bring about the social reforms in health sector of the Tharparkar district in the province of Sindh, Pakistan. This location, being in one of the farthest areas from developed communities, lacks some of the most basic health facilities. The map shows the location in orange of the Sindh province, and of the Tharparkar district in red. In the initial phase, a remote center was developed in Mithi, and was connected to a central point in Hyderabad, a larger urban center, for 15 days. Then its results were observed to find out the impact on local society.
Tharparkar district is one of the most neglected areas in the Sindh province, with the least developed HDI among all districts of the province. It is home to 2.2 million people, and this population is growing at more than 3% per year. Almost 95% of people live in rural areas with inadequate and under quality medical healthcare facilities. As of 2013, there was only one civil hospital in the Tharparkar district. A major number of people are affected by hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, snake bites, and malaria. Malnourishment is common, illnesses are prolonged, and a reduced power of resistance result in high death tolls. People have to travel long distances to reach hospitals or to Karachi and Hyderabad – the major urban centers – if they are afflicted with any fatal diseases. Available healthcare facilities in the district include rural health centers, basic health units, government dispensaries, first aid medical centers and experimental dispensaries. Almost all of these are woefully inadequate, and none of these have medicines or quality health professionals to attend this deprived community.
With technology transforming the health sector worldwide, and telemedicine shifting the paradigms in healthcare provision, people living in remote areas no longer need to remain deprived of quality medical diagnosis. Using telemedicine and electronic health solutions, medical information is transferred for the purpose of assisting medical examinations and/or procedures quickly and efficiently. Telemedicine was chosen to not only improve the quality of health, but to also play a significant role in the overall improvement of the social problems in Tharparkar District. The three categories of telemedicine ecosystem include: Store and Forward; Interactive; and, Remote Monitoring – impact in these areas can cater to the healthcare needs of the people living in the Tharparkar district.
The table below shows what the objectives were of the project, what activities were undertaken to achieve them, and the indicators which were used to measure the success of the project.
|To provide basic health facility through telemedicine network||Established a Central Point in Hyderabad
Established Remote Centers in the Tharparkar district
|Timely combat epidemics
Improvement in health and hygiene awareness
|To create direct/indirect employment opportunities||Remote Centers worked as Franchise Spots where paramedics, technical and maintenance staff worked||Reduction in unemployment|
|To assess the impact of ICT on society||Elaborate records were maintained stating how many patients were treated||How much time and money was saved through such a service|
Using the network of telemedicine remote centers developed and connected to the central point in Hyderabad, patients across the Tharparkar district walk in to one of the remote franchise spots, where they were delivered consultation by physicians in Hyderabad through video conferencing. Both wired and wireless networks were used to connect with the central point in Hyderabad, and wireless networks using 3G and data enabled services of phone carriers were used to connect at the remote centers in Tharparkar with medical assessment gadgets. The point of contacts in Remote Centers were responsible of logistics system for movement of medicines and laboratory testing, hiring and training of doctors, paramedics and technical staff at the hub and at each of the kiosks.
Dr. Fahim Aziz Umrani, Associate Professor at Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET), led this project, and were ably assisted by other faculty and students at MUET, including Attiya Baqai, Abdul Wahab, Najeeb, Deepak, Anees and Anum.