COMSATS Telehealth aims to:
Promote and employ COMSATS’ experience and use of Information and Communication Technology towards achieving Universal health coverage outlined in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
Provide better access to healthcare to rural populations;
Employ Telehealth as a tool in building the capacity of health professionals in the remote areas.
Prior to the introduction of Tele-dermatology service, Skardu had no dermatologist in the whole region, where skin diseases are a common feature due to dry and harsh climate. The provision of Teledermatology, therefore proved a blessing for the local community. Teledermatology makeup about 80 per cent of the total Tele-consultations in provided in ICT4D phase in Skardu.
COMSATS Tele-health is positively influencing the health outcomes of the people in the project areas through timely intervention by qualified health practitioners for minor or major ailments or in chronic disease management, like treatment of hypertensive crisis and monitoring of diabetes etc. COMSATS Tele-health service serves a larger section of the population through its Outpatient ambulatory care. However, owing to the special needs of the people in the project area, it has also been providing specialists’ opinion through Telehealth.
Healthcare through CTH is presently being regularly provided in a range of medical disciplines; including primary healthcare, dermatology, internal medicine, antenatal care and ultrasounds. There is a huge response to the outpatient service as number of patients seeking primary care at the Tele-clinics is growing. Majority of the cases dealt through outpatient service pertain to women’s health; especially perinatal check-ups and related gynecological issues. Tele-ultrasound is an important feature of the service, which greatly facilitates doctors at COMSATS Resource centre in diagnosis. Nutritional deficiencies, respiratory infections and gastrointestinal ailments are other major diseases being treated at the Tele-health clinics at primary care level.
Types of Tele-health Service
General Outpatient Care
Capacity building through trainings and events is an important feature of COMSATS Tele-health. The main objective is to prepare necessary human resource for the operational needs of CTH and also to promote the use of IT in healthcare among various stakeholders.
For each newly established Telehealth clinic, 4 to 5 health professionals including doctors, paramedics, lady health workers are initially trained as per needs and requirements of Telehealth operations. The training covers basic computer training and the use of Tele-health equipment and software, use of ultrasound probe and hands on practice in the SoPs of Tele-consultations. Such basic trainings are also supplemented by continuous skill enhancement and capacity building of the Telehealth staff at Telehealth clinics during day to day online interaction during the Teleconsultations with the doctors.
COMSATS often organizes different training programmes to enhance the capacity of health professionals working in Tele-health. Such activities include an on-line three-month workshop on identifying psychiatric illnesses in general practice where almost 30 health professionals were trained in handling different aspects of psychiatric illnesses. In another workshop, COMSATS in association with its partner, Pakistan Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society (PAAIS) imparted online training to about 50 health professionals in Allergic diseases and their management through the simultaneous online facility at the Telehealth clinics.
CTH also maintains close collaboration with the COMSATS University for the university’s Health Informatics program under which its students are hosted by the CTH for a one-day study tour to COMSATS Telehealth. The purpose of the visit is to appraise the students of Telehealth and show a live demonstration of Teleconsultations to the students to develop an interest in this underserved field. So far three batches of the HI students have been hosted at COMSATS Telehealth.
Awareness among stakeholders:
The CTH capacity building programme also includes activities like creating awareness among health professionals and stakeholders on the utilization of IT-based tools in the health system. This is done through organizing or participating in seminars, workshops and conferences pertaining to the use of IT in health.
In view of the difficulties faced by the rural population, in seeking healthcare due to scarce resources and healthcare facilities, COMSATS initiated establishing Tele-health clinics in isolated areas of the country to provide easy access to healthcare for the most vulnerable population of the country. These clinics have enabled the patients in these localities to consult qualified medical doctors and specialist doctors and avail effective medical treatment through Tele-health without traveling long distances and bearing high expenses that their incomes may not allow. Moreover, introduction of Tele-health has somewhat relieved the people in the remote areas of their dependence upon the quacks and untrained paramedics who played with their health through redundant practices and fake medicine. COMSATS Tele-health is thus bridging the distance between quality medical care and the poor population in underprivileged areas.
It is encouraging that the number of people seeking healthcare at these Tele-clinics is increasing day by day. Since 2001, more than 65,000 patients during all phases of CTH have benefited from consultations provided at the Tele-health clinics.