The latest Hi-tech Initiative of Health Department, Punjab: ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes)

Punjab Tribune Bureau | February 26, 2017 01:22 PM

Chandigarh : A one-day high-powered meeting was held by the department of health and family welfare, Punjab at the Parivar Kalyan Bhawan, sector 34, Chandigarh here today. The theme of the Conference was, “Together we will build a healthy Punjab.” The brainchild of Ms. Vini Mahajan, Punjab’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health), the event was attended by over 70 delegates.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General ICMR, in her keynote address exhorted using the echo platform. She emphasized the utility of ECHO in leveraging scarce healthcare resources so as to develop optimal care close to the patients’ place of residence. Dr R.K Dhiman Senior doctor from PGI  shared the success of Hepatitis-C ECHO program. Dr Ruchita Shah (PGIMER) talked about the role of using ECHO platform for managing patients with psychiatric illnesses.

Dr N Khandelwal of PGI gave a live demonstration of using the ECHO platform for teaching ultrasonography skills to physicians in remote areas. The meeting was also addressed by Dr KK Talwar, Adviser Health to the Punjab Government and Ms. Vini Mahajan, Additional Chief Secretary Health. Sh Hussan Lal, MD PHSC, Dr.HS Bali, Director Health Services, Dr Sanjeev Arora, worldwide Director of Project ECHO also addressed the delegates sitting in New-Mexico US , using the ECHO Zoom platform.

The experts outlined the vision as to how the model could be used to possibly tackle several important diseases in Punjab. Rest of the day was spent brainstorming as to how to improve Healthcare Delivery in Punjab. The eminent panel of Doctors from PGIMER, NICPR, PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India), ECHO Coordinators from 22 District Hospitals and 3 Medical Colleges, and several Civil Surgeons & SMOs all gave excellent inputs. Dr.Sunil Anand,from ECHO-India apprised every one of all the successful ECHO Programs being run in India. It was unanimously agreed that ECHO had the potential of being a real game changer to achieve the goal of, “Building a Healthy Punjab, Together”. The meeting concluded with identifying more health initiatives that could be taken using the ECHO Model.

The leading medical experts pointed out in various sessions that ‘towards the middle of last year, the Punjab Government started the program for elimination of Hepatitis-C in Punjab. The experts stated that Hepatitis C is a deadly disease: untreated almost 70% of the affected patients would die of liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. The good part is that if treated properly, the cure rate approaches 100%. Being a complex disease, it is usually treated in a medical college with special expertise in the disease.

The challenge was to identify new cases, and make the treatment available at the local healthcare facility. Punjab Government took the initiative with the help of PGI Chandigarh, Department of Hepatology (Dr RK Dhiman and team), and ECHO India (a New Delhi based Not for Profit organization).

The Challenge was to mentor and upgrade the skills of District Health Officers, so that they could confidently treat these patients locally, without burdening PGI. Ms Vini Mahajan revealed that buoyed by the amazing success of this Program, the Health Department, Punjab has decided to make use of the ECHO Model for many more health initiatives. The program has been a roaring success as over 21,000 new cases of Hepatitis C have been detected, and treatment started closer to their home (rather than at PGI). The ECHO platform has been used to mentor the doctors continuously, and to monitor the progress and success of the Program.

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