Public-private partnerships key to sustainable telemedicine

Telemedicine is a way of using telecommunication and information technology to provide healthcare from a distance.
By Amy Wallace  |  Sept. 22, 2017 at 5:34 PM
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Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a way to make telemedicine more affordable and sustainable in remote parts of India.

Telemedicine is a way of using telecommunication and information technology to provide healthcare from a distance and is particularly useful in remote rural regions where access to medical care is sparse.

"We discovered that one key was making telemedicine sustainable, from technological and job skills standpoints but especially from a financial standpoint," RadhaKanta Mahapatra, a professor in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management at the UTA College of Business, said in a press release. "Creating public-private partnerships to establish these telemedicine centers is another key to lasting, thriving telemedicine outposts."

Researchers analyzed the strategy and operations of the non-profit organization that promotes the use of telemedicine technology to expand access to healthcare in rural areas and is based in Odisha, India, called OTTET.

Roughly 83 percent of the population of Odisha, one of 29 states in India that covers 60,000 square miles and has a population of 42 million, live in rural areas.

"One key to OTTET's success in implementing telemedicine projects in rural areas is getting someone in the community to invest in a telemedicine project's success," Mahapatra said. "OTTET also tackles the lack of technical manpower in rural areas by training unemployed rural youths on telemedicine technology, another factor essential in the project's success."

Researchers found that telemedicine outlets can cost between $5,000 and $12,000 to start in one of the remote regions of India, which is a considerable amount of money in the poor nation.

Another major hurdle for telemedicine outlets is a lack of local ownership. Mahapatra found that when funding agencies' grants expire, the system failed, and healthcare also suffered.

"We discovered that OTTET Telemedicine offers a viable approach to incremental and sustainable implementation of Information and Communications Technology-based development projects as long as there is local ownership and the public-private partnership model at work," Mahapatra said.

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