800 km away from Hyderabad and 18 km north of Chittoor,
is a tiny village called Aragonda. On March 26,
the village shot to fame
when the President of the United States, Bill Clinton,
visited it. How did this obscure Andhra village get
on the itinerary of the visiting President ?
The credit for that goes to the Apollo group of hospitals.
Aragonda is the birthplace of C. Prathap Reddy,
founder of the group. Of course this can't be the
reason for Bill Clinton's visit. He did so because in
March this year, the Apollo group set up a Rs 10 crore,
50-bed multi speciality rural hospital and invested another
Rs 17 lakhs to make it the country's first telemedicine
Telemedicine is the transfer of medical information
from a remote area to a qualified doctor through an electronic
network. Thus pathological reports, x-rays, magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) are transferred through cable across long
distances. For instance, when eight year old Lakshmi of
Aragonda village was brought to the newly set up hospital
she had a severe pain in the right knee. The pediatrician
at the hospital scanned Lakshmi's medical records and
sent it digitally across to Apollo at Hyderabad. They
wired back confirming the pediatrician's diagnosis. Thanks
to the telemedicine centre Laksmi was spared the long
travel to Hyderabad.
When President Clinton paid a visit, he witnessed the
first telemedicine diagnosis between Aragonda and Apollo
Hyderabad. Since then the hospital has carried out 100
surgeries after consulting doctors in Chennai and Hyderabad.
This is indeed a miracle for a village whose nearest hospital
until now was a single-doctor government clinic10 km away.
For the group that provided the miracle, the telemedicine
centre is part of a bigger programme called Apollo
Healthstreet, which is the infotech wing of the group.
Apollo Healthstreet is a joint venture with General Electric,
British Aero Systems (a company which operates 200 telemedicine
centres in Africa and Southeast Asia) and the Apollo group.
With a corpus of Rs 10 crore, Apollo Healthstreet will
focus on the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Rajasthan
and Tamil Nadu.
This is indeed a revolution in rural healthcare. And as
Sangeeta Reddy, Manager of Apollostreet says: "Aragonda
is just the beginning."