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Doctors knit a virtual net

Rajesh Shah, a city based homeopath, surfs the Net daily. He updates the nine sites he has posted on the world wide web on topics ranging from bronchitis to backaches and answers queries e-mailed to him from netizens across the world at his ask your doctor webpage. But Shah is more than a web doctor - to him goes the credit of creating an e-medicine module for homeopathy.

Doctors knit a virtual net
The Times of India, Pune

MUMBAI: Rajesh Shah, a city based homeopath, surfs the Net daily. He updates the nine sites he has posted on the world wide web on topics ranging from bronchitis to backaches and answers queries e-mailed to him from netizens across the world at his ask your doctor webpage. But Shah is more than a web doctor - to him goes the credit of creating an e-medicine module for homeopathy.

"I have gathered addresses of homeopaths across the world. Whenever a person consults me over the Net, I make it a point to e-mail him the address of the homeopath nearest to him, be it in Germany, New Zealand or the US. The network thus helps the patient concerned even while promoting homeopathy, " he says. Shah's e-homeopathy network is only one of the many high-tech initiatives - be they based on the web, broadband or satellite - undertaken by individual medical practitioners to reach out to patients. Click on health portals or contact telemedicine networks and you are sure to find your neighborhood specialist dispensing prescription or interpreting electro cardiograms.

Rohini Chowgule is another tech savvy doctor. A pulmonary physician practicing with the Bombay Hospital, she is in the process of creating a "virtual hospital " in Mumbai. Her web-based second medical opinion centre. Chowgule Mediconsult, will send digitalized medical reports of patients seeking a second opinion to its panel comprising specialists from medical centers like the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School.

That the number of tech doctors is on the rise is obvious from the experience of Jay Shah, director with a health portal that has 25 doctors on its advisory panel.
"When we advertised, we had applications pouring in from doctors from across the country, " says Shah, whose portal receives 300 to 350 queries on an average every month.

The e-doctor phenomenon is an offshoot of the on-going information technology revolution say practitioners like fertility expert Aniruddha Malpani and Rajesh Shah. "As patients become more educated, they expect more information from their doctors," says Malpani, who has many overseas patients whom he has met only once. There is no arguing the fact that e-medicine is still fledging state in India. "Although the progress to a full-blown e-medicine set-up is slow, there is no turning back, " says Rajesh Shah.

Indeed, telemedicine experts have predicted that some day in the not-too-distant future, a doctore will examine his patients not in his clinic nut in a virtual out patients department set up with the help of super computers . But it is not only the patients who will benefit from e-medicine. Doctors, too, will find it profitable, says Chowgule. "There are times when doctors in the process of diagnosis reach a dead-end. When he discusses the same with a specialist from a prestigious medical centre, it would not only help the patient but also the doctor, " she says. There are other benefits of connectivity - an e-connected doctor has well-maintained data, and is easily accessible to his patients and other specialists. A case in point is the breakthrough made by doctors of Rajkot Civil Hospital and U. N. Mehta Cardiology and Research Center in 1999, with the help of On-line Telemedicine Research Institute (OTRI). The Rajkot doctors carried out an operation with instructions given by specialists monitoring the patient's condition through a video-conferencing facility from Ahmedabad.

However, for the time being, e-medicine remains out of the common man's touch. "An average middle-class person cannot avail such facilities, it would take at least another five years for doctors to become e-friendly," points out Arun Bal of Association for Consumer Action of Safety and Health. But the revolution is on, with corporate hospitals as well as government hospitals keeping step with information technology.

Article Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Doctors-knit-a-virtual-Net/articleshow/1019831509.cms

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