April 2007

Baramati showcases e-health in ITS annual conclave

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Sharad Kulkarni, who also moderated the valedictory session, spoke about the Baramati Initiative. He said, “We are privileged to be a part of this initiative to successfully promote e-Health for the benefit and upliftment of the rural economy, and we are happy that it continues to be a great success year after year.” He also informed the audience that “VIIT is ready to partner with all stakeholders in these developmental efforts.”

The Seventh Annual Baramati Initiative on ICT and Development took place during 15-17 March in Baramati, Maharashtra. This happened to be the seventh in a series of annual conferences, organized by Vidya Pratishthan's Institute of Information Technology (VIIT) in Baramati. The basic concept behind this annual event is to highlight the enormous potential of digital technologies and the digital economy to help poor communities. Over the years, the Baramati Initiative has evolved to become one of the key platforms for people to exchange ideas and information on various innovative efforts in the field of ICT and development.

This year, the conference focussed on the ICT applications in health and the theme of the conference was 'The Potential of e-Health'. It endeavoured to showcase how ICT can be effectively deployed to provide sustainable growth impetus to the pharma and the healthcare sector. The event was co-organized by Vidya Pratishthan's Institute of Technology (VIIT), Baramati and Intel Technology Pvt.Ltd.- a global leader in silicon innovation doing good work in Baramati- and YES BANK, India's new age private sector Bank. YES BANK was also the knowledge partner of this knowledgecentric event.

The conference aimed to explore avenues through which governments, NGOs, development agencies and corporate houses can successfully promote e-Health, to the benefit of the Indian populace. This year's conference attracted a galaxy of dignitaries from a wide spectrum and included eminent people from the medical fraternity, academicians, development professionals, important players from the industry engaged in the ICT applications in healthcare, banking and finance, e-Health experts, senior bureaucrats and ministers, and thought leaders and CEOs/COOs of large super- specialty hospitals.

The inaugural session commenced on 16 March 2007, with the opening remarks by Sharad Kulkarni, Chairman, Governing Council, VIIT. Rajiv Ratan Shah, the Member Secretary, Planning Commission, gave the inaugural address, which was followed by keynote addresses by Chris S. Thomas, Chief Strategist, World Ahead, Intel Corporation and Hardy Sekhon, Group Director Q& A, Infoway. Shah emphasized on the critical need for delivering of quality health services to the people by using ICT as an enabling tool. He also informed that the Planning Commission was gearing up with various charters to tackle this challenging task.

Chris S. Thomas was very animated about the World Ahead initiative, which is doing wonders for Baramati's healthcare development. According to him, “As part of our World Ahead initiatives, Intel continues to drive accessibility of computing to every person in every country.” He viewed that technology should be perceived as a tool to bring about healthcare improvements, as it has done so for other industries. “Intel offers its expertise to enable the healthcare industry to effectively incorporate IT, and hence fully realize the value that technology can bring in transforming lives,” he added.

The sessions on 16 March were 'Potential Impact of e-Health Initiatives & Policies on Rural Health', 'Corporate Initiatives in Rural Healthcare-a Public Private Partnership', 'Healthcare Insurance-Driving ICT Adoption', and 'ICT in Medical Education-Lacunas and Research Perspective.' They were followed by three video conferencing sessions. The following day opened with a high-powered session, carrying a mouthful title. It was 'Demonstrating Successful Use of Technology in Healthcare, Improving Operational Efficiency, Patient Safety and Satisfaction.' It was followed by a session on 'Innovative Good Practices in Healthcare', and a panel discussion on 'Measuring the Economic Benefits of Digitialized Hospitals' The last session before the valedictory session was on 'Government Efforts on the Use of ICT in Health and Family Welfare', which was moderated by Mrs. Chandra Iyengar, Secretary Health, Government of Maharashtra.

The influence of the government machinery in the conference was very much evident in the valedictory session too. The valedictory session had the presence of two heavyweight ministers – Dr. Anubumani Ramadoss, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare and Sharad Pawar, the Union Minister for Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. Both of them extolled the virtues of e-Health as a solution to India's healthcare problems. Other speakers at the valedictory session were Somak Ghosh, President – Corporate Finance & Development Banking of YES BANK, Dr. Sivakumar Ramamurthy, Managing Director, Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd. and Sharad Kulkarni.

Sharad Pawar, along with Dr. Anubumani Ramadoss, presided over the concluding plenary session on 'The Future of e-Health'. There Pawar emphasized on the role of ICT as an effective enabler which can support and improve the livelihoods of agrarian families. “We should have full integration of biotechnology with food and agricultural systems. e-Health, like e-Agri, is a fundamental need for the empowerment of rural India and therefore planning and implementation go hand in hand.I am glad to see that some efforts in this direction have been flagged, and we will fully assist them in taking this effort forward,” he expressed.

Dr. Ramadoss also said that the union government was “seeking to increase the number of public-private partnerships to augment the provision of healthcare in the country.” He acknowledged IT's potential in improving the access of healthcare in the remote India, and called for using this technology for disease surveillance and telemedicine programmes.He affirmed, “The enabling role of the government with knowledge-based financial institutions to create robust PPP mechanisms will be crucial towards the success of such initiatives and the government will actively work towards achieving this goal.”

 The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare also released the YES BANK knowledge report on 'e-Health -Opportunities and Challenges in India,' which focusses on the benefits of ICTs in healthcare delivery systems.The report covers some initiatives taken
by the Indian stakeholders in the delivery of quality healthcare at an affordable price, to traditionally underserved populations. Besides it also covers the international initiatives implemented by various governments in order to leverage the advancement of information and communication technology in healthcare, and the need to implement this on a sustainable basis using Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

The second YES BANK knowledge report titled 'Health and Healthcare in India' was released by Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, which highlighted the trends covering infrastructure and hospital resources along with the key achievements and shortcomings of rural healthcare.

Sharad Kulkarni, who also moderated the valedictory session, spoke about the Baramati Initiative. He said, “We are privileged to be a part of this initiative to successfully promote e-Health for the benefit and upliftment of the rural economy, and we are happy that it continues to be a great success year after year.” He also informed the audience that “VIIT is ready to partner with all stakeholders in these developmental efforts.”

Ramamurthy asserted that, “Through the World Ahead Program we remain focused on accelerating access to technology in addition to improving education and increasing Internet connectivity.” He informed that as part of this World Ahead Program, Intel has “equipped the government hospital in Baramati with computers, medical equipments, design expertise of solution specialists, and has also engaged with the solution delivery expertise of third party service providers.”

The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, A. Ramadoss also released the YES BANK knowledge report on 'e-Health- Opportunities and Challenges in India,' which focusses on the benefits of ICTs in healthcare delivery systems. The report covers some initiatives taken by the Indian stakeholders in the delivery of quality healthcare at an affordable price to traditionally underserved populations. Besides it also covers the international initiatives implemented by various governments in order to leverage the advancement of information and communication technology in healthcare.

Some of the other important speakers who graced the conference included the likes of Dr. K. Ganapathy, an eminent neurosurgeon who happens to be the Head of Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, Alok Gupta,Country Head, Lifesciences & Technology, YES BANK, Dr. S.V. Krishnan, COO, MediCiti Hospital, Dr. Ajit Babu, Director, Center for Digital Health, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr. Neeraj Raj, Managing Director, MedRC Edu Tech Ltd., Amit Kumar, CIO, Max New York Life Insurance Co., Dr. Nayan Shah, President, Reliance Industries Limited, Dr. Ashwin Naik from Vatsalaya Healthcare Solution Pvt. Ltd.Madhava Murthy, Executive Director & CEO, SN Informatics Private Limited, Pamela Rao, Associate Director, Social & Scientific Systems Inc., V. Thulasiraj(through video conferencing), Director, IT & Systems, Aravind Eye Hospital, Bomi Bhote, CEO, Ruby Hall Hospital, Dr. S.K. Mishra from SGPGIMS, Lucknow(through video conferencing), Dr. Seema Gupta, a Senior Consultant at Wipro and Dr. D.V.S. Sastry, Director General(R&D), IRDA.

Overall, the conference showcased the enriching and often divergent views of a crosssection of experts, who shared their opinions, expertise and visions on the various parameters of e-Health, which are going through evolution. The Baramati Initiative provided a platform of exchange of ideas that facilitated awareness about many lesser known e-Health applications, that are beginning to deliver on the expected benefits of improved patient outcomes, better patient safety and cost-effective delivery.

The cumulative endeavours of the esteemed speakers during the two-day long presentations and discussions (the sessions began on 16 March) helped in understanding of the enormous potential and intricacies of e- Health and also made us aware of the myriad challenges involved in its successful or optimal implementation.

The pointed and pertinent questions by the delegates during the interactive Q& A phase, which followed each brainstorming sessions, further helped to unveil the maze of complexities, potential, impediments, and inherent dichotomies involved in the application of ICT technology, in the fast evolving field of healthcare.

Events of such magnitude and focus are necessary for the emergence of an e-healthy educated nation. We welcome more of such initiatives.  

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