By Nithin Sridhar
India, with around 121 crore population (2011 census), is suffering from a huge inadequacy in health infrastructure.
According to population norms for setting up public health facilities, in general areas, there should be one Community Health Centre (CHC) per 1.2 lakh population, one Primary Health Centre (PHC) per 30000 population and one Sub-Centre (SC) per 5000 population.
For difficult and tribal areas, these figures are one per 80,000 population for CHC, one per 20,000 population for PHC and one per 3,000 population for SC.
But according to Rural Health Statistics (RHS) 2014, there are only 1,52,326 SCs, 25,020 PHCs, and 5,363 CHCs across India as on 31st March 2014.
Therefore, there is a clear shortfall of around 20% for SCs, 23% for PHCs and 32% for CHCs respectively. One of the major reasons for such a shortfall is the non-availability of doctors.
In order to overcome this difficulty and maximize the reach of health services to common people, Madhya Pradesh state health department, at the behest of Central Medical Services Society (CMSS), has decided to introduce automated medicine dispensing machines.
According to Dr. K.K.Thassu, the machines will be introduced on a trial basis in five rural health centers in Betul district, around 180 kilometers from the state capital.
Automated medicine dispensing machines are basically drug storage devices that electronically dispense medications in a controlled manner.
These systems have been widely used in hospitals around the world for effective and safe drug distribution for patients.
They are also provided with internal electronic devices that track the usage of the system by the nurses, track the patients for whom the medication is administered and the list of the medications administered for that patient.
This tracking of patient’s medication has helped the doctors to monitor the patients more easily and helped the hospitals’ financial department to prepare the patients bills.
The proposed dispensers by the Madhya Pradesh health department are designed to recognize prescriptions and accordingly dispense medicines. They are also attached with machines for checking blood pressure and pulse.
Hence, when a patient visits the dispenser unit, a local health care worker will guide him to check his blood pressure and pulse and then the health care worker will connect the patient to the telemedicine doctor.
The doctor will register the case, diagnose the patient and alert the dispenser to dispense the medicine.
Madhya Pradesh currently has a shortage of 3445 SCs, 821 PHCs and 161 CHCs. Further there is a shortage of around 342 doctors at PHCs and 811 pharmacists at PHCs and CHCs combined.
The installation of these dispensers in rural and remote areas will overcome the need for on-site presence of doctors and pharmacists, hence making up for the shortage of doctors in current health centers and paving way for the construction of newer health centers.
Therefore, if the trial project of the Automated Medicine Dispenser machine becomes successful, it will go a long away in improving the health infrastructure.