Telemedicine Gets a Human Face: Remote Treating of Genetic Disorders in Sri Lanka

The Telegenetics Project initiative of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka endeavours to take the dividends of the highly specialized field of human genetics to rural communities through an ICT platform, and draws on the infrastructure facilities of the newest Nenasala at the Kurunegala Hospital and that of the Koslanda Nenasala.

The Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka’s Nenasala Project has broken new ground when it opened its first Hospital Nenasala at the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital on 11 June 2007, under the patronage of the Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Kurunegala district’s  MP, Jayarathna Herath. Kurunegala is a district of Sri Lanka.

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The project has been made possible through the partnership of the ICTA with the Human Genetics Unit of the Medical Faculty University of Colombo and the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital.

The Project is one of the projects implemented under the e-Sri Lanka Initiative. Formally known as the ‘Vishva Gnana Kendra Project (Nenasala)’, ICTA has incorporated it under the ‘Nenasala’ label to introduce several models of the telecentres or knowledge centres to be established in all parts of Sri Lanka; for spreading ICT services to the rural and semi-urban population of this island-nation.

The significance of this latest ICTA initiative is that it opens up new opportunities in healthcare for remote rural communities. For the poor and underserved in Sri Lanka, living in remote rural areas of the island nation, access to quality healthcare is a challenge. One of the many ways in which ICT can facilitate healthcare is through remote consultation, diagnosis, and treatment through telemedicine, which is gaining currency in the Sri Lankan health scenario.  An inconceivable phenomenon not too long ago, it is now a fast growing reality in Sri Lanka;  now a patient in a remote rural area is able to obtain expert advice from a specialist in Colombo without having to move out of his local environment.

Although this technological revolution is yet to bring a paradigm shift in the delivery of healthcare services, increasing sophistication in supporting technologies such as telecommunication, mobile monitoring devices, etc. has made telemedicine systems much more potent than ever before. This initiative of the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka endeavours to take the dividends of the highly specialized field of human genetics to rural communities through an ICT platform, and draws on the infrastructure facilities of the newest Nenasala at the Kurunegala Hospital and that of the Koslanda Nenasala.