February 2009

Doctor at your Fingertips

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Dr. SMS is an innovative G2C Service for providing health care through a SMS in Kozhikode, Kerala


Imagine you are in the midst of a heart attack! But you will survive, if you happen to be in Kozhikode, Kerala. Thanks to Dr. SMS, for its prompt service at your finger tips. Dr. SMS is not a doctor emerging out of your mobile phone, but a SMS service which will definitely help you reach the nearby hospital in town. Dr. SMS is an innovative way of providing health care information system through a SMS.

This service was launched early in 2008, in Kozhikode city of the South Indian state of Kerala. An excellent example of Government to Citizen services in the health sphere, the magic number – 9446460600 provides information
on the availability of hospitals, medical centres, facilities and doctors in the designated area, that the sender wants to know.

Speaking to egov Dr. Ajay Kumar, Secretary – Information Technology, Government of  Kerala said, “This information based service help people contact the hospital concerned through their mobile phone as soon as an emergency arises”. All a person is required is to text  the pin code of the locality, where he / she needs the information for. And they receive the information promptly via a return SMS. Bridging the digital divide has been the prime moto  of all Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives and projects. With India adding millions of mobile subscriptions every month and heading towards meeting the 500  million mark by 2010, mobile device is all set to become the all in one gadget. Right from  paying electricity bills to booking bus and railway tickets, mobile phones holds the ability for  further value additions as when and when required. Today, it is not rare to see a rickshaw  puller or  the daily wager to carry a mobile hand set. Tapping such wide popularity of the  mobile device the Dr. SMS project is defi nitely a great move towards providing value added  services on a mobile phone. It also marks an innovative way of a shift towards m- Governance.

DR. SMS @ KOZHIKODE

Currently, Dr. SMS service is available in Kozhikode (Calicut) which is the third largest city in Kerala with a population of approximately 20 lakhs. Kozhikode is the ‘chosen one’ for this project because it has the highest rates of mobile penetration in the state. The city has a huge  migrant population and also attracts a large number of tourists every year. Dr. Kumar said, “Mobile phone is more affordable to people compared to the Internet facility – this fact again  ensures the reach and success of a project like Dr SMS among the public, be it tourists, migrant population or the resident population”. The service acts like a fi rst aid kit for any  health emergency for the large number of tourists who are on the move in the town and are  not aware of the whereabouts of the place. In the event of an emergency, people can contact the hospital concerned through their mobile phone.

This helps the hospital authorities prepare the emergency room as per the requirements as  well as to mobilise the resources like specialist doctors and specialised equipment to take care  of the emergency. Moreover, the database created for Dr SMS can also be used for micro-level  planning for ensuring an equitable geographic distribution of facilities. Given its novelty, the project has managed to get an average of approximately 200 transactions on a day to day basis.

ROLE OF KERALA GOVERNMENT

The Government of Kerala has taken a laudable step in creating this value added service for  its people. Speaking about the initiative, Dr. Kumar stated, “Presently, the cost of SMS sent to  the user is being borne by the Government”. Even though there is no tie up with any of  hospitals for this project, the project claims a credible and a sound database on hospitals and  emergency health services which was based on a large data from the Health Infrastructure Survey, conducted by the National Commission on Macro economics and Health (NCMH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. This survey extensively uses data on all medical facilities across all the districts of the state. Dr. Kumar added, “The validity of the data was ensured during the preparation of the database”.

PARTNERING WITH BSNL

Dr. SMS is a success story in Kerala and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has played a  signifi cant role in it. The services provided for Dr. SMS at affordable and cost effective rates  has indeed made the services popular among the masses. At present, the customer who uses  the service is charged an amount of 40 paise per SMS. The Government of Kerala has taken the onus of taking care of the cost of the return-SMS delivered to the users.

IN THE PIPELINE

With the success of the Dr. SMS project in Kozhikode, there are plans for replicating the model  in all other cities of the state. Speaking about such plans, Dr. Kumar further reiterated that “The pilot project was implemented in Kozhikode and is easily accessible to more than 20 lakhs  people residing in the district. The services of Dr SMS will be available to the residents of  Kannur, Kasargode and Thrissur within a few months”. Expanding the scope of the project,  there are also plans for making it a umbrella service through the various mediums of  information distribution delivery outlets such as portals and the integrating of spatial data  and GIS, apart from the existing SMS service. There are also plans for making provisions to  receive the details of the medical services on email or as an SMS to the user’s mobile device.  Further talking about the future plans of making the model sustainable, Dr. Kumar added that, “We are also in the process of identifying a SMS aggregator which would help us provide  this service on a sustainable basis to subscribers of any mobile service provider’s network”. It is hoped that once the project is rolled out across the state, it will benefi t the 3 crore  population of Kerala. The state promises the best delivery of such digital technology given its  high rates of mobile penetration which is even higher than that of the national average of  India. With such high levels of commitment of addressing the digital divide, Kerala is not only  the front runner in the e-Governance map of India, but also embarking on a path of m-Governance.

COST STRUCTURE OF DR. SMS PROJECT

  • Monthly rent for the SMS SIM = INR 225/month + service tax.
  • Free outgoing SMS provided/month = 2000 numbers.
  • Additional SMS charge = 5 paise/SMS irrespective of any service providers within LSA and 40 paise/SMS outside LSA.

INSIGHT

  • Target Audience: Tourists, Migrants and Resident population
  • Pilot Project: Kozhikode
  • Services Available: Information on the availability of hospitals, medical centres, facilities and doctors
  • Other cities in the pipeline: Kannur, Kasargode and Thrissur

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