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Telemedicine—the new link between India, Pakistan
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

Doctors of a hospital in New Delhi interact with their Pakistani counterparts at the launch of telemedicine linkup between New Delhi and Lahore on Tuesday.
Doctors of a hospital in New Delhi interact with their Pakistani counterparts at the launch of telemedicine linkup between New Delhi and Lahore on Tuesday. — PTI photo

New Delhi, September 28
A 32-year-old Pakistani woman diagnosed as suffering from the brain tumour has benefited from Apollo Hospital’s newly launched New Delhi-Lahore telemedicine link by getting expert advice from radiation oncologists.

The crucial link, a boon for patients and caregivers, looking for the best medical opinions, was inaugurated in Lahore today by Ms Anne Marie Moncure, Managing Director, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

Ms Sapna Tiwari, First Secretary (Commercial), High Commission of India in Pakistan, special invitee to the function, hailed the link as “the ties of compassion and care, different from any other ties between the countries.”

Dr S. Hukku, senior radiation oncologist at Apollo Hospital, saved the Pakistani patient and her caregivers the trouble of travelling to Delhi by giving advice on the line of treatment to the Apollo telemedicine centre in Lahore.

As a gesture of goodwill, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital has decided to offer the initial hundred tele consultations free of cost. The hospital authorities said that patients seeking tele consultations would be required to pay Rs 1000.

Dr Hukku advised the patient confronted with a clinical and radiological diagnosis of meningioma, a kind of brain tumour, to opt for surgery. He said although the surgery was difficult and the total removal of the tumour was not possible, the histopathology of the tumour would be known only after surgery. He said the surgery should be followed by radiotherapy.

Dr Hukku told TNS later that the hospital had been treating cancer patients from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Asia. “Most of the cases are of brain tumour. They opt for treatment in India because neurosurgery is very well developed here,” he said.

Dr Hukku said if the patient from Pakistan decided to come to Apollo for medication, she would have to pay anything between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh for surgery.

“Depending on the residual tumour, we will decide whether she should receive Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) or Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT). Both are radiation. SRS is a one-day procedure and costs nearly Rs 1.5 lakh. SRT is a six-week procedure and costs Rs 60,000,” he said.

Drawing a comparison of the cost of medication in India with that in Bangkok and Singapore, the senior radiation oncologist said if the patient was to travel to Bangkok or Singapore, not to talk of the USA and the UK for the same treatment, she would have to pay three times more.

Commenting on the initative, Dr Puneet Gupta, another Cancer specialist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital told TNS that the tele-medicine link between Delhi and Lahore would definitely change the standard of cancer care in the neighbouring country as the Indian doctors could also appreciate the cultural and socio-economic constraints of the Pakistani patients.

Speaking on the occasion from Chennai, the Chairman of the Apollo Hospitals group, Dr Prathap C. Reddy, said the facility would cover all branches of medicine except geriatrics. He said 400 specialists of the hospital had agreed to be available for tele-medicine consultations.

Dr Reddy said the initiative would go a long way in bringing the people of the two countries closer. He added the link would facilitate the speedy transfer of valuable opinion and interpretations to complex medical cases.

The Medical Director of Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Dr Anupam Sibal, said the tele-medicine connectivity was a step towards holding regular CMEs (Continuing Medical Education) programmes for the doctors of the two countries.

A delegation of doctors from Apollo Hospital is scheduled to visit Pakistan in the coming month for a CME programme.

“Our strength together is enormous. We have a lot to learn from each other. We need to see how the European Union has worked together by pooling their resources,” he said.

Dr Sibal said Apollo has 62 tele-medicine centres in India and has tele-medicine link with Colombo and Dhaka. The Hospital plans to introduce tele-medicine link with Nepal, Kazhakistan and Bhutan. 

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