Physicians working in the remote and hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh are using WhatsApp in a unique way to communicate the status of a patient’s illness and get advice from specialists who are sitting several miles away.
Dr. Vivek Chauhan, who is working in the Internal Medicine department of Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College and Hospital in Kangra (RPGMCH), came up with this innovative idea after he observed that patients in the region had to travel for about 11 to 24 hours before they could receive specialist treatment, or meet experienced cardiologists in bigger cities like Shimla and Kangra.
He developed an IT-based gateway using WhatsApp to transmit ECG images to specialists. This method harnesses the ease of communication offered by WhatsApp to connect senior cardiologists with physicians who work out of remote locations.
Dr. Vivek observed that distance was not the only problem in these villages. Patients were losing lives also because of the lack of high-end diagnostic facilities. So he and his team planned this tele-electrocardiography (tele-ECG) based pilot project in Kangra, that is now enabling doctors in remote locations to send ECG images to specialists, and receive timely advice for the treatment plan over a telephonic conversation. The project was funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research and can help save lives in a matter of minutes.
Dr. Anil Chauhan, the principal of RPGMCH, told The Times of India that they started the project in March last year in eight community health centres. They established 24-hour toll-free helpline numbers at medical colleges for the diagnosis of heart attack through tele-ECG.”This gave doctors in remote locations confidence in treating heart patients, as they were sure of getting the help of cardiologists and experts from the medical college,” he added.
This is not the first time the mobile application has been put to use by good samaritans for social causes. Last month, police officials in rural Vishakapatnam urged citizens to use WhatsApp to lodge complaints because they believed that the response was quicker and more effective than the long-drawn process of filing an FIR. Similarly, a group of doctors from around the world is using WhatsApp to raise money for expensive treatments for patients who require urgent medical care. Then there are farmers in many drought-prone villages of Maharashtra who are using the app to share best practices, explore new markets and build infrastructure over a group named Baliraja.
A recent study shows that WhatsApp is installed in 94.8 % of all android devices in India alone, and is used for an average of 37 minutes daily. This shows that tech-savvy Indians across the country can put the immensely popular mobile application to good use and change lives around them.