Philips ties up with ISRO, Apollo Hospital and DHAN to provide affordable rural health care

Madurai 08 July 2005Philips India, a subsidiary of the Netherlands based Royal Philips Electronics, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), part of the Department of Space under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation (ATNF) and Development of Humane Action (DHAN), a Madurai-based NGO, are jointly involved in DISHA or Distance Healthcare Advancement, a project aimed at meeting the health care needs of the less privileged in India. Each is a strategic partner in the project bringing their unique capabilities to deliver the project's aims.


DISHA, a telemedicine initiative is a business plan conceived by Philips India for providing distance health care to the underserved people at the base of the economic pyramid. Health care is a core focus area for Philips and the company has a clear vision to make technological innovations in health care accessible, available, and affordable to wider sections of people around the world. DISHA is a step in that direction. The project will meet the needs of India's more vulnerable groups who need adequate but affordable health care.

This strategic partnership between a Government agency (ISRO), the largest health care service provider in Asia (Apollo), one of the most respected NGO's in the country (Dhan) and a global expert in imaging and medical diagnostics (Philips) is the first of its kind in India and is an outstanding example of public-private partnership in addressing one of the country's key concern areas.

In 2004 Philips commissioned ACNielsen - with support from ICG Consultants - to conduct a qualitative and quantitative research in India, which revealed that people in rural areas with lower incomes spend a higher proportion on health care than their urban counterparts. A large percentage of costs go to paying high interest rates on loans for health care, while travel and lost work time accounts for much of the remainder. Early intervention in a health crisis is therefore critical in dealing with poverty.

The DISHA initiative is being piloted in Theni district in Tamil Nadu and has been formally inaugurated in Madurai. Philips, specialized in high quality diagnostic equipment, has custom-built a tele-clinical van complete with diagnostic equipment, including an ultrasound machine, X-ray machine, a defibrillator and an ECG machine. This van with dedicated doctors and other paramedical staff will operate in the areas around Theni district in Tamil Nadu.

ISRO has, in the past couple of years, taken the initiative for a satellite-based telemedicine network in the country to reach super speciality health care and consultancy to rural and remote area population. For the DISHA project, ISRO is providing the connectivity through VSAT and allocating the required bandwidth on its INSAT satellite free of cost.

Apollo Hospitals Group is a pioneer in the field of telemedicine in India and is credited with being the first to set up a rural telemedicine centre in the village of Aragonda in Andhra Pradesh. Apollo Telemedicine Network Foundation (ATNF) with 76 telemedicine centres including 5 overseas has today emerged as the single largest telemedicine solution provider in India.

The Apollo Speciality Hospitals, Madurai, the leading super-speciality tertiary care hospital in Madurai is the referral hospital for the DISHA mobile tele-clinical van. Apollo will make available to Philips the required doctors and paramedical staff in the van, as also train the medical and paramedical manpower. Apollo's specialist doctors and operational staff at its hospital in Madurai will provide specialized diagnosis and care for patients visiting the mobile tele-clinical van.

Dhan Foundation provides the vital link to the local community and will play a key role in community participation for the project. Dhan will provide counseling - through domiciliary follow-ups - to the patients on nutrition and hygiene. They will train volunteers from the villages to motivate and play an active role in counseling. This will enable the villagers to directly participate in the implementation of the project.

Commenting on this new foray by Philips, Mr. K. Ramachandran, CEO, Philips India, stated: "Philips is a health care, lifestyle and technology company. Our vision is to be able to improve people's quality of life through the products we offer and the markets we serve. Our challenge lies in expanding our scope to new markets and new business opportunities with sustainability as the key driver."

"Today the population growth is highest in emerging markets especially in the mid and low ends of the economic pyramid. Technology can help drive sustainable solutions that bridge the divide between the privileged and lesser privileged sections of society and improve the quality of life at all levels. However, new value delivery models need to be created to make this happen and this strategic partnership is a step in that direction", Mr. Ramachandran added.

"Philips' approach has been to embark on pilot projects to test new ideas and strategies, in this case remote access health care through the launch of DISHA in Theni. This pilot will allow us to assess the project's viability and gain consumer insights", Mr. Ramachandran concluded.

Commenting on ISRO's role in the project, Mr. G. Madhavan Nair, Chairman, ISRO stated: "With the objective of taking the benefits of space technology to the rural and remote area population, ISRO had taken the initiative to establish a space-based telemedicine network in 2001. ISRO's telemedicine network has now expanded to connect 26 speciality hospitals in major cities to 87 hospitals in rural and remote areas including the Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and J&K."

"ISRO has been working with other departments of Government, NGOs and private entrepreneurs in its various space applications programmes to ensure that the benefits of high technology reach the underprivileged. DISHA is another example of the unique combination of a Government Organisation (ISRO), a NGO (DHAN) and private enterprises (Apollo and Philips India) joining hands for a common purpose of serving the society at large in the very important area of health care", he added.

Speaking about Apollo's role in DISHA, Ms. Preetha Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Group of Hospitals, stated: "Today Apollo hospitals group is the largest health care provider in Asia and the third largest health care provider in the world. Apollo, the pioneer of telemedicine in India, is also the largest telemedicine network solution provider in Asia. As part of our corporate social responsibility we are committed to provide specialized health care to the rural poor."

"In India, 80 percent of the population lives in the rural areas, whereas 80 percent of the medical community lives in the cities. 11 percent of the world's population, which resides in the rural areas of India, remains devoid of quality health care. This scenario could change with the use of telemedicine, that would bridge geographical distances and provide health care to those sections of the society that currently don't have access to quality health care. Through telemedicine we transfer the knowledge and not the patients, who are then treated at their respective villages", she added.

According to Mr. M.P. Vasimalai, Executive Director, DHAN Foundation, "Secondary and tertiary health care is still a distant dream for those living in remote pockets of rural India. Availability of affordable, quality health care is a huge issue in these communities." High spends on health care is one of the leading causes for debt in rural India. A large percentage of income goes towards high interest rates on loans for health care, while travel and lost work time accounts for much of the remainder.

"Early detection of the problem and arresting the damage caused due to improper medical treatment can considerably reduce the high expenditure on health care incurred by these villagers", added Mr. Vasimalai. "DISHA is an excellent initiative to provide health care services at an affordable price at the doorstep of rural communities."

The DISHA tele-clinical van will travel to identified locations once a week and it is expected to cover a population of 500.000. This pilot project will be evaluated and the results will be used to build a business model for a health care delivery system including the pricing for such a facility. Support of additional NGO's will also be sought to strengthen the interaction between the patients, doctors and the facilities.

Royal Philips Electronics of The Netherlands is one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest, with sales of 30,3 billion euro in 2004. With activities in the three interlocking domains of health care, lifestyle and technology and 160.900 employees in more than 60 countries, it has market leadership positions in medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring.

Philips India, a subsidiary of the Netherlands based Royal Philips Electronics is specialized in lighting, consumer electronics, medical systems, domestic appliances and personal care, semiconductors and research. Philips has an unmatched range of internationally current products backed by superior design and technology and an excellent distribution and after-sales service network. Philips has been operating in India for 75 years and employs over 5000 employees around the country.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), part of the Department of Space under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, was established in 1969. The prime objective of ISRO, has been to develop space technology and its application to various national tasks. ISRO has established space systems like the INSAT for telecommunications, television broadcasting and meteorological services, and the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites (IRS) for resources monitoring and management. It has also developed the satellite launch vehicles PSLV and GSLV to place these satellites in the required orbits.

Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited (AHEL) was incorporated as a Public Limited Company in the year 1979. Promoted by Executive Chairman Padmabhushan Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, the Apollo Hospitals Group is today recognized as the "Architect of Health care" in India. The group's history of accomplishments, with its unique ability of resource management and able deployment of technology and knowledge, justifies its recognition within the health care industry in India and overseas. The Government of India declared AHEL's Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, as a "Centre of Excellence" and the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals is amongst the largest corporate hospitals in the region. The Apollo Group of Hospitals today is an integrated health care delivery company and has emerged as the single largest private hospital group in Asia.

Development of Humane Action (DHAN) Foundation is a national level professional development organisation. The Foundation works towards bringing significant changes in the livelihoods of the underprivileged through innovations in themes and institutions and also by introducing modernization in rural development to eradicate poverty in backward areas of the country. Having over a decade of experience in this field, DHAN employs more than 350 professionals operating in four southern states and two northern states of India. It has reached around three lakh underprivileged families mainly through its microfinance and water resource development themes.

Leslie Versweyveld

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