Rural Knowledge Centers of Sri Lanka
 

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

Sri Kanth and Chandra Kanth spearhead the ICTA's Telegenetics Project
Genetic disorders affect a significant number of people in Sri Lanka, including two brothers who operate the Koslanda Nanasala, Sri Kanth and Chandra Kanth (above) and who have also spearheaded the ICTA's Telegenetics Project.
The Telegenetics Project is coordinated by Koslanda Nenasala operator Sri Kanth
The pilot programme of this Telegenetics Project involves online consultations with patients of the Koslanda District Hospital.

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.

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.

There are thousands of disorders caused by genetic defects, some of which are very rare, while others such as Thalassaemia are common and affect a large number of people. Taken as a whole, the number of people affected by genetic disorders is quite significant and comprises a sizeable percentage of the population of Sri Lanka. Besides the human angle, as these conditions cause long term disability, their effect on the economy of the country due to the drain on healthcare and social services is enormous.

Presently there is only one centre in Sri Lanka providing such clinical genetic services, and that is the Human Genetics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. It isn't possible for everyone to come to Colombo to seek the advice of the geneticists of this faculty, especially because some of the people affected with genetic disorders are disabled and cannot travel long distances. However, the development of an island-wide network of Nenasalas equipped with ICT infrastructure and broadband connectivity has opened up an array of opportunities in the field of healthcare.

The Human Genetics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Colombo can now be contacted online without the need to come to Colombo for a physical examination. This telegenetic project  is aimed at giving the opportunity to remote and underserved  communities of Sri Lanka to get the best genetic advice available in the country, which is on par with that of anywhere in the world, via videoconferencing with the clinical geneticists in the Human Genetics Unit of the Faculty of Medicine, at the University of Colombo.

The pilot programme of this project involves online consultations with patients of the Kurunegala Teaching Hospital and the Koslanda District Hospital and will be coordinated through the Kurunegala Hospital Nenasala and the Koslanda Nenasala.


Courtesy: www.ehealthonline.org July 2007