New Delhi: The neurological department of AIIMS Delhi has launched a smartphone app named “SMART-India” to provide low-cost telestroke services of neurologists and physiotherapists to physicians in district hospitals.
This app connects secondary and peripheral healthcare centres with tertiary care facilities and guides them to provide immediate relief. Using this app, a local resident doctor or physician can send an alert to a neurologist at the connected nodal hospital. Through the chatbox, the neurologist can decide acute management steps with a physiotherapist, who can then alert the local doctor.
Dr MV Padma, head of the neurology department and the brain behind this app, said, “The purpose of this app is to provide immediate assistance to stop untimely death of people from strokes. It’s not possible for patients to walk 10km to reach a tertiary healthcare centre or get airlifted. Delivering adequate healthcare in rural India, where more than two-thirds of the population lives, is a major challenge. There is a severe shortage of specialists in rural areas that have one of the lowest physician/population ratios in the world.”
In April 2014, a trial run of the WhatsApp telestroke programme was launched in Himachal Pradesh by the department and it was successful. It was expanded on a trial basis to a few other states, like Punjab and Haryana.
“I developed a standard operating protocol to be used as a checklist to give thrombolytic drugs. This training was given to the medical staff in Himachal and it was a successful model. In fact, the first management of an acute stroke giving IV-thrombolysis was done by a non-neurologist, a physician,” said Padma.
For pan-India implementation of the service, the neurology department has come up with the app built with the support of ICMR.
The app not only helps in dealing with stroke patients, but also has two more main categories, including an education module. A doctor can put in data of patients treated using the app. Training can also be provided through this app to physicians in district hospitals to diagnose and manage acute stroke using the low-cost telestroke model.
“We will be assessing the efficacy of the app-based telestroke model versus the stroke physician model and compare it with the standard of care database maintained simultaneously at tertiary nodal centres with neurologists. The results of this study can be utilised in national programmes and be a role model for stroke care delivery in poor countries,” Padma noted.