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ISRO plans health satellite

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has plans to develop a health satellite depending on the acceptance and growth of telemedicine in the country, according to Dr K. Kasturirangan, Chairman, ISRO.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the Apollo-Sriharikota tele-medicine project that establishes telemedicine connectivity between Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, and SHAR Centre Hospital of ISRO at Sriharikota using INSAT satellite.

The ISRO Chairman said that this was a prototype experiment and once fine-tuned with inputs from users, it could be replicated in other places. In the course of the project, ISRO will be identifying the key requirements for telemedicine on a national scale.

Taking into account the rural-urban divide in access to health care, Dr Kasturirangan said that such a system would play a major role in healthcare delivery. “If the demand is sufficient, ISRO could earmark capacity on a transponder and eventually a satellite for health.”

Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ISRO and Apollo Hospitals Telemedicine Enterprise Ltd, ISRO will provide necessary satellite communication infrastructure, including transponder capacity.

Apollo Hospitals will provide the medical consultation, advice and treatment using the telemedicine equipment installed at the SHAR and Apollo hospitals. Under the same MoU, a telemedicine project is in operation between Apollo Hospitals, Chennai and Aragonda Apollo Hospital and Educational Research Foundation at Aragonda village in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

Dr Kasturirangan said that some State Governments have also shown a lot of interest in implementing telemedicine.

Dr Pratap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Group of Hospitals, said that telemedicine would give a fillip to healthcare in the rural areas. Apollo Hospitals plans to set up 100 telemedicine centres, including franchises. The company has drawn up plans to connect the entire country through a medical network.

The company hopes to connect 2,600 primary care centres, 500 secondary care centres and at least 50 tertiary care centres all over the country. Chattisgarh would be the first State where the telemedicine project is implemented, Dr Reddy said.

The consultation window would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. while emergency consultations would be done in 30 minutes. Dr Reddy also said that there would be no charge if the consultation is from a village, while it would cost Rs 250-500 for consultations from smaller towns Overseas consultations depending on the country of origin would cost $100-250.