Rural children and truck drivers benefit from mobile based primary health care

Mobile-based delivery of health care is all the buzz these days; in many cases, it is for mothers and children, diagnostic care or telemedicine. As I prepared for my visit to Sevamob in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, I didn’t expect to find anything new.

I landed in Lucknow and went straight to a camp organised by Sevamob, located on the outskirts of the city. The camp was at the bus depot of a travel company running tourist buses. Doctors were sitting around a table, piled with instruments and medicines. A simple set up and, for an observer, very mundane. So much so that you would not know the significance of it.

Quarterly health check-ups for bus drivers:

Bus drivers were receiving their quarterly check-up, paid for by the travel company. Each driver was seen by the doctor who enquired about their health, checked their blood pressure and oral hygiene. They were then prescribed tests and medicines; blood tests were available on-site, as there is a tie-up with a local company.  The doctor also counciled the drivers regarding their individual health, spoke about the need for physical and oral hygiene and demonstrated the correct dental care techniques. While each person was weighed and checked,  a field officer meticulously entered the details and clinical findings into a tablet-based application.  This would later be synced on the cloud to be retreived as needed. 

A majority of these drivers do not see a doctor until they are ill. To receive quarterly check-ups, at no cost to them, is a novelty. They soon realize its value when they start to see a reduced number of sick-days, better overall health and increasing wages.

Quarterly health check-ups for school-aged children:

The next day I accompanied the medical team into a small school in a rural area about an hour away from Lucknow. We were greeted by the headmaster who had asked all the children to assemble in the small school compound. The doctors interacted with all the children, providing them with some key messages regarding the care of their teeth and good nutrition. Children who had signed up for the Sevamob program were examined by the doctors and their general health, dental hygiene, height and weight were checked. The parents of the children were present at the camp and received specific advice based on the doctors’ clinical findings. Parents also received a medical card for necessary prescriptions; the same information was also captured by a field officer on their tablet device.

It was heartening to see these young children receiving medical care at their school. Many of them may not have received such services other than during their routine immunizations. I came to understand that there was no medical practitioner in the vicinity and it was on the headmaster’s own initiative that this camp was arranged; parents pay a nominal Rs. 150 per year and the children receive a quarterly check-up. In case of illness at any time during the year, they are able to call a phone helpline to receive medical advice from a doctor or are referred to a networked local health provider.

Reaching low-income consumers through mobile-based health care delivery:

The importance of the two camps, I observed, lies in the fact that primary healthcare was being made available to low-income consumers. Sevamob delivers care through camps organized at schools, bus depots, factories etc, using a mobile van. There is a 24/7 call centre and, in addition, appointments can be made with third party specialists for more advanced needs. Working on a subscription model for groups, either the subscriber or their  employer pays for the services. Subscription rates vary from Rs. 150 to Rs. 1,800 (USD $2.5 to $29) per year and come bundled with accident and life insurance at a higher price. There is a cash back benefit for the subscribers when they use networked clinics, pharmacies and diagnostics.

About Sevamob:

Since its inception in 2011, Sevamob has reached more than 3,000 beneficiaries. Currently, 25 schools and 5 employers (bus companies and factories) are enrolled, in 3 districts of Uttar Pradesh. The medical unit provides services to 800-1000 individuals per month, while the call centre handles 100 calls per month.

Sevamob is able to harness mobile and electronic technologies to effectively addresses the major aspects of healthcare: prevention, promotion and treatment, offering better access and affordability. Find more information on Sevamob here