Dr Pramod Kumar Meherda, Commissioner-cum-Mission Director (NRHM), Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Odisha, thinks technology is all invasive as it can help healthcare reach the masses In conversation with Nayana Singh & Manjushree Reddy, ENN
How do you think ICT is helpful in Health & Family Welfare Departments?
The Health Department deals with a lot of complex systems. Added to that, every task here is urgent and has to be done in a time bound manner. For instance, whether you are procuring drugs or dealing with logistics and supply of consumables, vaccines etc, you need to know whether they have reached the desired destination within the desired time or not. In my opinion, ICT is very important for Health & Family Welfare Department to manage complex systems with the much needed accountability and transparency.
How has Health & Family Department in Odisha leveraged ICT to manage these complex systems?
Under the initiative, which we call e-Swasthya, we took up several e-innovations in the last few years. One of our major accomplishments has been e-Blood Bank, the first of its kind web based MIS to improve management and functioning of blood banking system. By linking all the blood banks in the State, the public interface under this initiative allows real time accessing of data relating to availability of desired blood group. By doing away with the manual system of accessing information on required quantity of blood units from specified blood banks, the initiative has brought in the much needed transparency in the blood banking system.
Likewise, we also have Odisha Drug Inventory Management System (ODIMS). Here, we track, in real time, if all the procured drugs have reached the destination, the stock position of various drugs at any given point of time, information on expiry of drugs, further requirement of drugs, etc. Similarly, the Drug Testing and Data Management System, a web based application has helped automation of the day to day work processes of the State Drug Testing and Research Labarotary.
We have also launched Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) and e-Attendance to manage and keep track of employees. HRMIS facilitates a GIS based HR planning and management.
In Odisha, we have the State Malaria Information System, a GIS based application, which helps in providing information on epidemiological and surveillance parameters related to malaria. Apart from this, with the help of C-DAC, we have introduced telemedicine facilities upto District Headquarter Hospitals.
We are now in the process of integrating all these initiatives with a more comprehensive Hospital Management Information System (HIMS).
Please tell us how you manage the order requirements?
The entire planning is being done through web based applications, integrating them with GIS platforms. GIS has very strong foot forward in public health management under NRHM. I have already mentioned about ODIMS, the drug testing and data management system, and e-Blood Banking, which help us in managing order requirements in their respective fields. We have placed adequate staff at various levels for timely data entry and analysis.
How can we address the consistent challenge of connecting to the people in remote and rural areas in terms of public health service delivery?
This requires a multi-pronged strategy. In Odisha, we have tried to provide differential incentives to doctors to encourage them to serve in rural health centres. Besides, we are taking care of the need for adequate and quality infrastructure at our delivery points, including staff quarters for health personnel serving in rural areas.
It is also important that we reach our rural and tribal population at their doorsteps to reduce their out of pocket expenditure onhealth and to build their confidence in publichealth systems, such as through Mobile HealthUnits (MHUs). At present, 354 Mobile HealthUnits are operational to provide primaryhealth care services at the community level in7850 most difficult villages on a fixed day everymonth. A Mobile Health Unit has five persons:a doctor, an ANM, pharmacist, attendant anda driver. These mobile units take care of minorailments and if there is anything beyond theircontrol, they refer them to the senior doctors.We already have two such units in all theblocks of tribal areas.Free referral transport services through466 Janani Express and 422 Ambulances havehelped us in providing access to rural populationduring critical situations. More thanfour lakh pregnant women and 35,000 sicknewborn babies are being benefitted annuallyin this way. We have also set up maternity waitinghomes (Maa Gruha) in remote tribal areas,where mothers arriving early for institutionaldeliveries are kept under medical supervisiontill they are shifted to the health institution foractual delivery.
Similarly, over the years, steps have beentaken to provide health care services throughactive involvement of the people. This has beenachieved with the help of more than 43,000ASHAs and formation of Gaon Kalyan Samitisin all the revenue villages. To cite an example;last year, at the village level, 2.50 lakh personswere diagnosed and treated for Malaria byASHAs. Likewise, in the same period, ASHAssuccessfully followed up 20,000 TB patientsand 2500 suspected Leprosy patients at villagelevel. Community involvement has nowbecome the mainstay for public health servicedelivery in rural areas.
Please tell us about the trainingfor the IT. Are Ayush doctorsbeing considered for thoseprogrammes for telemedicine?
Not yet but sooner or later they will have tobe trained in ICT. At present, they have beentrained in other maternity and child healthcareservices and outreach programmes like schoolhealth, mobile health units, etc. As part ofanother ICT initiative, we are putting GPS onall our vehicles to track how they move.
Tell us about your ICT initiatives ahead.
I have already mentioned about the comprehensiveHospital Information ManagementSystem (HIMS). The backward linkages undere-blood bank, linking of prescription auditswith ODIMS and an integrated referral transportsystem, tracked in real time throughGPS are other initiatives that we are currentlyengaged with.