President’s Message…Mid-term Musings
It is, indeed a great honour to be the President of Telemedicine Society of India (TSI). As the 13th President of TSI, it gives me immense pleasure to be sharing my thoughts with you all in the 20th year since inception of our beloved Society. The TSI is now a mature and well reputed society with a vision to provide delivery of health services to the underserved masses, both rural and urban, through the use of information technology.
We are facing a Global scourge that has threatened the very existence of entire humanity in the form of a Global Pandemic. The pandemic has forced everyone to distance themselves from each other and the entire healthcare infrastructure as we know it is has collapsed. However, the Covid pandemic has brought Telehealth technology to the fore-front and has established Telemedicine as the panacea for provision of quality healthcare to those deprived of it.
I cannot help but reflect upon the year gone by. It has indeed been a year that no one will forget in a hurry. As far as TSI is concerned, I wish to highlight two very important developments that have helped bring TSI on the fore-front. Firstly, the hurried and intense work on the Draft Telemedicine Practice Guidelines by a small group of dedicated and sincere TSI members with legal background at behest of the Chairman Board of Governors MCI and Member NITI Aayog and the subsequent issuance of the “Telemedicine Practice Guidelines” for RMPs on 25th March 2020. Secondly, the quick and successful response by a committed group of TSI members in forming the Training Team and conducting ‘Online Basic Orientation Course on Telemedicine Practice Guidelines’, training a large number of doctors (RMPs) by curating content equalling global standards, mostly working ‘pro bono’. It is heartening to know that almost 15 thousand doctors have been trained so far!
The melange of activities has left an indelible impression on my mind and possibly helped to shape my thoughts for the future. I wish to take this opportunity to share my thoughts with you all. As with all such endeavours, there is a great deal of subjectivity. Many of the thoughts and ideas are offshoots of observations over the past twenty years. If we attempt most, accomplish some and some others do not see the light of the day; I think we would have done our job of doing a sincere effort of getting our Society on an even keel. Getting the process started and making it a self-sustaining process is what we must ensure.
In our concerted effort to move forward as a society, there are a few housekeeping matters which require to be streamlined. A notable few being: highlighting the efforts of The Society through the website; manpower concerns within the society; financial avenues for sustaining the capacity building programs initiated by the society; partnering with other associations, industrial bodies as a matter of public outreach exercise; review of internal milieu and organisational restructuring. In order to achieve the foregoing, I request you all to consider the following:
- Implementing agile and decisive decision making: within the Executive Committee and beyond the closed group, to ensure no new partnering initiative or moot point is side-lined. If we at TSI, want to have a place in this eco-system, we will have to follow a process of rationality in our thought process, well-researched and well-informed decisions and most importantly agile and decisive decision making;
- Inclusive and participative governance of TSI activities: By office bearers, and other senior members who have been spearheading the cumulative efforts of the society over the years. TSI is now more than 800 members strong, and growing day by day in strength. I feel it is far too ambitious to think that an Executive Committee of 14 members alone can do justice to all the decision making required to make TSI a globally recognized think-tank and promoter for Telehealth activities, especially when we aim to compete with organisations like ATA, HIMMS and other similar entities in the field of digital health. A number of committees have been constituted recently to enable this, and I exhort all TSI members to take this responsibility with all seriousness and in the right spirit to help steer TSI on the path of progress of being ‘Numero Uno’ in the field. I request that more and more members seek to be involved with the various committees that have been formed for ‘inclusive governance’ of TSI matters;
- Growth and empowerment of Regional chapters: The Regional Chapters are the functional arms of The Society. The growth and empowerment of the Regional Chapters will go a long way towards progressing the agenda of The Society. I request all TSI members to explore avenues of growth within the spheres of their influence;
- Explore reasons for lack of involvement by TSI members in TSI activities: We need to start a dialogue to remove any hurdles for involvement of TSI members in TSI activities and increase participation for inclusive growth of the society and its members;
- Increase membership of TSI: In an effort to increase membership both at individual and institutional levels; “each one, get one” is a strategy which could be adopted by us all. We have to ensure that the opportunity which has been presented this year due to the boost that Telehealth has been given during the Pandemic is not lost. We must attempt to gainfully utilize this ‘God given’ opportunity to maximal benefit for The Society;
- Revision of Bylaws: Revision of Bylaws is necessitated as the present are antiquated and must be aligned with the change in the overall ethos pertaining to the field of Telehealth. This is especially pertinent in light of the recent Telehealth policies issued by the Government of India, increased interest from like-minded Societies/Associations from other nations to seek liaison with TSI, growing participation of the private sector, and other industry associations as well as NGOs seeking an alignment with TSI in augmenting the vision and activities of The Society;
- Lateral linkages: In order to grow in this rapidly progressive field of Telehealth, TSI has to strike synergistic liaisons with other NGOs and industry majors who are functioning in this field;
- Financially sustainable activities: Financially sustainable activities for the purposes of ensuring growth and smooth functioning of the society will go a long way towards fulfilling the aims and goals of The Society. We intend promoting remunerative models of training and ‘pay-for-view’ e-magazine/e-journal and conference proceedings on lines of ATA and similar organisations;
- Training with Certification: Training with certification will have to be promoted to achieve the goal set for TSI in conformity with the Telemedicine Practice Guidelines for evangelizing telemedicine. We must seek to align with like-minded well-reputed organisations engaged in similar activities, who have reached out to us for collaborative ventures. Any hesitancy at this juncture will be akin to ‘missing the boat’;
- TSI website: Website of an organisation is its face that visitors look at for the first time while enquiring about its activities; “first impressions are lasting impressions”. TSI website must be revamped to bring it up to international standards in ‘look, feel and read’;
- TSI eMagazine/Journal: TSI eMagazine/Journal has to be rolled out on a defined, periodic basis, with high quality scientific content, demonstrating the commitment of the society to the cause of telemedicine. A great start has been made by the Tamil Nadu Chapter on behalf of the TSI HQ. However, it is not possible for a State Chapter to continue this effort alone. The ownership has to be taken by the TSI HQ and various State Chapters must come forward to take responsibility on a roster basis;
- Liaison with Govt functionaries: Sustained liaison with the concerned Govt functionaries, both at Centre and State level, in furthering the regulatory and policy work in the domain and practice of telemedicine will go a long way towards furthering the cause of TSI. Our concerted efforts to align important Govt officials concerned with Digital/Tele-health both at Centre and State Govts to our cause will be most beneficial to TSI and Tele-health in India;
- Development of Telehealth Standards and benchmarking capabilities: We must strive to project TSI as a veritable regulator of Telehealth activities in India. There is a need for development of Telehealth Standards, alongside government agencies, private bodies, and other designate agencies in collaborative efforts. Also, developing benchmarking capabilities for Telehealth apps and platforms and their certification, by engaging with the industry and by advising and consulting within the society, leveraging the cumulative experience of the members from different walks of professional life;
- Restructuring TSI as a corporate body: The need of the hour is for restructuring TSI on lines of ATA/ITU/IEEE/HIMMS, which work in close contact with the concerned Governments, relevant Regulatory bodies, NGOs, WHO and private players and take justified pride in operating as corporate bodies.
As a way forward, I seek your much valued comments and suggestions; and invite participation of one and all, in the smooth and streamlined functioning, promotion and activities of this great Society of ours.
Maintain Social Distancing; Stay Safe, Stay Healthy…JAI HIND!!