Digital dispensaries treating patients in Jharkhand’s ‘doctor-less’ villages


Digital dispensaries (telemedicine centres) where doctors diagnose and treat diseases through video-conferencing are turning out to be a boon for people living in remote villages of Jharkhand.

Launched by the Jharkhand government on February 20 this year, the digital dispensaries have provided medical services to around 79,000 rural people in 100 centres set up so far, officials at state unit of national rural health mission (NRHM) said.

Jharkhand has tied up with the Apollo Hospitals Enterprises Ltd for the telemedicine services. A panel of 30 doctors and specialists related to gynaecology, paediatrics, general medicine and dermatology, has been providing medical services from 10 am to 4 pm daily, excluding Sundays and national holidays, sitting in Hyderabad or Chennai.

The state government has converted 100 primary health centres, where doctors’ availability is negligible, into digital dispensaries.

Interestingly, rural women have shown more interest to the services. According to the dashboard of telemedicine centre, 78,550 patients have visited the digital dispensaries till 12.30 pm on Monday since February 20, of which 48,793 were females, while number of male patients was 29,735 in the state. The officials engaged in monitoring the patients footfalls at the centre said a total of 879 patients visited digital dispensaries till 4pm on Monday.

The NRHM’s IT (information technology) Cell head, Abanindra Kumar, said: “We had set target to treat at least 10 patient at each centre and 1000 across 100 centres daily, which was almost achieved. Now, we are targeting to raise the number patients to 20 at each centre daily and 2,000 across the centres in state.”

He, however, said there was lack of awareness about such facilities in some of the centres. “We are working to make it popular in such areas so that maximum people could get affordable and standard health facilities,” he said.

Dumka has the highest 11 such centres where more than 8922 patients have visited so far, while East Singhbhum, which has nine centres, has witnessed second highest 8762 patients till 12.30pm on Monday since February 20. Over 7241 patients have availed the facility from six centres in Ranchi district.

Maya Devi, 35, an anaemia patient from East Singhbhum district, said she visited telemedicine centre and found it very easy. “My disease was diagnosed by a doctor through video-conferencing and he advised me for haemoglobin test. Getting treatment in telemedicine centre is very easy as well as beneficial,” she said.

An auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) and a lab technician are deputed in each digital dispensary. After registration of the patient, the ANM and lab technician would conduct vital tests for height, weight, blood pressure, sugar level, body temperature of the patient.

Patients can also avail medicines from the digital dispensaries, where 60 types of common generic medicines are stored. Besides, patients can also get to avail tests for malaria, typhoid, dengue, haemoglobin, urine analysis and pregnancy in the telemedicine centres.