Healthcare Just a Click Away

Sujata Saunik
Sujata Saunik Prinicipal Secretary, Public Health Department, Government of Maharashtra

Human Resource Management, Hospitals and Medicines, Communication, and Administration and Citizen – centric approach are our five focus pillars, says Sujata Saunik in an interview with Veena Kurup of ENN

How do you visualise the changes in your department through adoption of IT?
IT and ICT have a major role in refining the operational process of any large governing department, especially for a crucial department like Public Health. Besides, these technologies act as productive and vital modes in managing large manpower. Since the Government of India and the state Ministry of Health are focussed towards implementing new programmes to bridge the prevalent gaps in public health services, IT and ICT play a key role as a productive tool for ensuring good governance.

Maharashtra has been in the forefront in implementing e-Governance initiatives in the country. In line with the state’s progress, the Public Health Department has also been a frontrunner in terms of e-Governance projects and is one of the leading virtually connected departments in Maharashtra. The department with its wide array of e-Governance initiatives has introduced efficient new ways of delivering services, internal to the organisation as well as for the citizens. The department has effectively laid the fundamentals of the information society, spurring the delivery of all kinds of e-practices and e-services. The department under its e-Governance ambit has developed an array of applications catering to its internal needs.

Effective citizen service is a key responsibility of the Public Health Department. How has IT helped in empowering the department’s mode of service delivery?
India today has become highly tech-savvy, wherein the country’s most productive force, the youth, are actively utilising mobile phones, social networking platforms etc. IT and ICT have hugely contributed in generating awareness at a much faster and much wider scale across communities. These technologies have supported the health department’s initiatives well. Today, information about a disease, its prevention, relevant examinations, treatment processes and cure are at just a click away. The other advantage is that these technologies help in achieving an archive of missed out valuable information.

According to me, an individual who is aware of the technical dynamism is most capable to avail such services and exploit its potential well. I treat these technical transformations as path-breaking achievements which enable us, the people in government, in actively spreading the information. The department is focused to provide various citizen-centric and employee – centric services aiding all employees and citizens towards a more channelised, informative and processed approach. The focus of the department has been primarily on five pillars: Human Resource Management, Hospitals and Medicines, Communication, Administration and Citizen-centric approaches.

“IT has hugely contributed to awareness generation much faster and at a much wider scale across communities. These technologies have supported the health department’s initiatives well”

Rural areas are vital operational areas for your department. Has the lack of connectivity network hurdled the department’s initiatives?
Yes, connectivity is one of the major issues we face in providing services in the rural areas. The department has already approached BSNL to remove this hurdle. However, mapping the entire country on an IT platform is not an easy task. Convincing the masses to utilise the system is another hurdle faced at such locations. A constant reminder and initiating awareness workshops and campaigns at such locations are thus vital for the success of such projects in rural and interior locations. The department is dedicatedly focussed to overcome these hurdles soon through a planned approach.

How effectively has the department fared in utilising such technical platforms?
I think the department has fared well. Today, we have collected all the important data such as number of employees, record of institutions, etc. All these data are being made available on our web portals. We are also planning to create programmes for better analysis of the data. This will help in understanding our key focus areas.

Brief us about the projects empowered through e-platforms?
We have successfully conceptualised, designed and implemented 18 live projects while 11 others are in pipeline. These include large-scale projects like Hospital Management Information System (HMIS) and Drug Inventory Management System (e-Aushadhi). HMIS or ‘e-Sushrut’, as it is christened, is a comprehensive application with 21 different modules like patient registration, billing, lab investigation, pharmacy, blood bank, central sterile services, OPD, IPD etc., covering all critical, non-critical, operational and daily procedures of a hospital. HMIS is aimed to bring relief to patients from long queues, cut down operational costs, create a unique health record for every patient and provide a plethora of ground level information for the state to assist in decision making. The department plans to roll out this application in 27 different hospitals across the state within a span of two years.

e-Aushadhi is a comprehensive drug warehouse management software built by sheer vision of the department coupled with state’s priority parameters. e-Aushadhi primarily focuses on providing root-level monitoring of drugs, vital medicines’ stocks, quality control of drugs, purchase order management and supplier payment tracking. The project has been a runaway success with more than 4,000 users at 2,000+ locations operating the application within the first year. A major achievement has been reduction of rates of medicines due to faster processing of payments.

Another noteworthy success is the “Emergency Medical Services’’ (EMS) through 108 ambulance services launched across the state. This project is aimed at giving immediate medical assistance to anyone under any emergency. The department has designed a dashboard to monitor live ambulance status, live call reports, district-wise emergency patients served report and district-wise ambulance report.

The department by leveraging the power of IT has developed a systematic process flow for its several programmes, and utilised several IT methodologies for communication as mobile technology in the form of Pull SMS and Bulk SMS technologies.

We are trying to make our website more user-friendly and also developing a system to check the performance of our employees. We are also in the process of designing medical reimbursement software, which will give us a detailed disease profile of an individual. Once this information is gained, the department can effectively spread awareness on treatment prevention and cure facilities.

Is capacity building a concern in implementing such initiatives and utilising these technologies?
Yes, qualitative capacity building is a major concern. However, we have been training various cadres for the ongoing processes. At present, we are providing only need-based training, but from the next year, we will focus on implementing a more co-ordinated and effective training policy.

What is your vision for e-governance?
Share with us your suggestions to enhance the scope of utilising such vibrant platforms? Paperless offices, a smart corporate style of workplace and real-time availability of information together form my vision of e-Governance. Analysis of data is the other key e-Governance focus area. I believe that we have not fully exploited the potential of ICT for awareness generation. Technologies hold the potential of analysing data at each level of administration. However, we have to design a more effective user-friendly e-platform. With the positive shift towards digitisation and government’s continued focus on improving citizen services and governance, we are confident of the opportunities ahead.