Got a snake bite or a heart problem? Healthcare is just a SMS away – if you live in Kerala that is.
Dr SMS is a free service that makes “health facilities available to people through the use of mobile,” according to Dr Rathan U Kelkar, director of Kerala State Information Technology Mission (KSITM), an autonomous body which implements e-governance projects for the state government.
All that a user needs to do is type ‘Health’, their pin code, and health concern and send it to a pre-designated number. Within minutes the user receives a SMS listing addresses and phone numbers of health facilities, hospitals and doctors in the area where he or she lives.
The service is available on the Internet at http://www.drsms.kerala.gov.in/.
Dr SMS is one of 20 services that mobile users in Kerala will be able to access when the state launches a “mobile platform” in July this year.
Aside from Dr SMS, this platform will include services such as declaration of CBSE, entrance and high school results as well as checking of vehicles’ number plates.
“We want to a create a database on mobile,” said Dr Kelkar, adding that the emphasis on using technology was “to get services straight to the doorsteps of people.”
Currently, only eight of Kerala’s 14 districts can use Dr SMS but the service will extend to the remaining six districts by August this year, said Dr Kelkar.
Dr SMS was launched in Kozhikode in February, 2008, when the then District Collecter Dr Jaya Thilak asked the IT department to create a programme that would allow them to inform people about health-related activities through mobile phone.
With 72 per cent of Kerala’s population owning mobile phones (more than Internet users, according to Dr Kelkar), a highly literate population and general awareness about health-related issues, Dr SMS has been extremely popular.
“We get about 1,500 hits per day,” said Dr Kelkar, adding that Dr SMS is especially helpful to tourists who may need to access a health facility, but don’t know where to go.
Other health innovations in the pipeline are health alerts in case of a health emergency such as “dengue or diarrahoea outbreaks” and voice-based calls that route the call of a person in need of blood to a registered blood donor.
KSITM also plans to upgrade Dr SMS so that it becomes a “relevant database” that addresses localized health issues. For instance, if an area has high incidence of snake bites, the department wants to inform people of what they need to do in case this happens and refer them to doctors who specialize in snake bites.
“This is still at a conceptual stage and the state health department will be roped in to create such a database,” said Dr Kelkar.