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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

In eHealth in India today, the nature of work, the challenges and the finances: an interview-based study

Szymon Jarosławski and Gayatri Saberwal*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology, Biotech Park, Electronics City Phase I, Bangalore, 560 100, India

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2014, 14:1  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-1

Published: 6 January 2014

Abstract

Background

India is a country with vast unmet medical needs. eHealth has the potential to improve the quality of health care and reach the unreached. We have sought to understand the kinds of eHealth programmes being offered in India today, the challenges they face and the nature of their financing.

Methods

We have adopted an interview-based methodology. The 30 interviews represent 28 organizations, and include designers, implementers, evaluators and technology providers for eHealth programmes.

Results

A range of programmes is being run, including point-of-care in rural and urban areas, treatment compliance, data collection and disease surveillance, and distant medical education. Most programmes provide point-of-care to patients or other beneficiaries in rural areas. Technology is not a limiting factor but the unavailability of suitable health personnel is a major challenge, especially in rural areas. We have identified a few factors that help this situation. Financial sustainability is also a concern for most programmes, which have rarely been scaled up. There are recent for-profit efforts in urban areas, but no reliable business model has been identified yet. Government facilities have not been very effective in eHealth on their own, but collaborations between the government and non-profit (in particular) and for-profit organisations have led to impactful programmes.

Conclusions

It is unlikely that eHealth will have widespread and sustainable impact without government involvement, especially in rural areas. Nevertheless, programmes run solely by the government are unlikely to be the most effective.

Keywords:
eHealth; Telemedicine; mHealth; Rural healthcare; Diagnostics; Distant medical education