December 14, 2010

Bangalore and Pune fast emerging as hubs for teleradiology

Call it an innovative solution to skilled manpower crunch or simply a new paradigm of seeking medical expertise.

The diagnosis that saves a patient's life in some remote areas of the country and abroad is being made by radiologists sitting in their consulting rooms in Pune.

The concept of teleradiology (knowledge process outsourcing) is fast picking up in the city. More and more experts are interpreting digital images of MRI, CT scans, X-rays, etc and sending their interpretations to doctors practising not only in various parts of the country but also the globe.

Radiologist Abhimanyu Kelkar, head of the Omega MRI Centre at Poona Hospital and Research Centre (PHRC), says, "Shortage of experts as well as advances in telecommunication are fuelling the trend of teleradiology in Pune. Besides dispensing radiology related work of my unit, I see around 10-12 MRI scans every day coming from various parts of the country. I charge Rs 400-700 per scan. The digital images are usually being sent by diagnostic centres and private hospitals which have sprung up in peripheral and remote parts of the country. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to interpret a report."

Besides helping patients in remote parts of the country, there are some who even work for hospitals in the US and West Asia. "I interpret around 30 to 40 reports every day. A large part of them mainly comes from hospitals in countries like Dubai, Jeddah and also in the US," says Kedar Athawale, faculty in radiology at Bharati Hospital and Medical College.

Confirming the trend, senior radiologist Amarjeet Singh, former vice-chancellor of the D Y Patil University and former dean of the D Y Patil Medical College, says, "It is a win-win situation for both the parties. I personally knew a few young radiologists in Pune who do teleradiology work for hospitals in the US and to some extent in the UK." "Doctors in western countries accept our expertise. The reporting of our radiologists is always appreciated for accuracy of diagnosis. Besides, we have the efficiency of delivering the report within half an hour — much earlier than any other hospital abroad," says Singh, currently CEO of D Y Patil Medical College. But how does the process of receiving the work begins? "Both the parties come to know about each other through websites or international conferences," says radiologist Amit Kharat.

"Once a US hospital or clinic decides to outsource its teleradiology work, it initially starts testing the reporting and interpreting skills of the group extensively. The group which has high degree of customisation or subspecialisation gets high preference as their reports are more evolved," says Kharat who is also the owner Cyberteleradiology private Ltd — a company involved in teleradiology work in Pune and especially deals with hospitals in the US and European countries.

Sharad Agarkhekar, president of the city chapter of Indian Medical Association, says, "Going by the number of private hospitals and diagnostic centres coming up across the country, the unprecedented number of scanners and X-ray machines being sold and the large number of people going for preventive health checks, the shortage of radiologists has started showing up. That is the reason for the trend fast picking up in Pune, after Bangalore."

Link: Original Article

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