The Hindu Business Line: March 07, 2012
Dhaka: Apollo Hospitals is planning to set up a second hospital in Bangladesh, at the port city of Chittagong, through a local partner.
The 300-bed project is expected to be on stream in two years. Bangladesh is a major consumer of healthcare facilities in India, especially in Kolkata.
The Indian healthcare major is also in discussion with the Bangladesh government to offer “expert medical opinion” through a network of Union Parishad or Panchayat-level multi-purpose tele-centres in the neighbouring country.
Beginning 2007, Bangladesh has set up an impressive network of 4,500 tele-centres run by local entrepreneurs, offering nearly 50 different public services. Nearly, 1,100 of such tele-centres are also used by banks to offer mobile banking facilities.
“We are talking to the Bangladesh government, to offer expert opinion services through tele-centres. Hopefully, we will be able to announce (the project) shortly,” Ms Sangita Reddy, Executive Director, Operations, Apollo Group of Hospitals, told Business Line, on the sidelines of the recently concluded World Marketing Summit at Dhaka. The premier chain currently has one hospital in the capital city.
According to Ms Reddy, Apollo Hospitals has participated in a similar tele-medicine initiative in 24 countries in Africa and runs 120 video conferencing hubs, mostly in India and a few in Mauritius, Maldives, parts of West Asia, Sri Lanka and others, to take healthcare to the patient's doorstep.
The company is now aiming to extend the network of such “video-conferencing hubs” to 500 in next 25 months, so as to offer patients “high-end, speciality” opinion and advice.
Tele-medicine spares patients in far-flung areas from spending large amounts of money and time they can ill afford to lose in visiting speciality hospitals for consultations.
Nearly two-thirds of the outpatient traffic in Apollo Hospitals across India is from outside the cities they are located in. In most of such cases — for example, in 80 per cent of diabetes-related issues or a large chunk of the post-operative consultation for cardiac problems — a video-conferencing facility may spare the patients from spending a fortune in travelling down to an Apollo Hospital in either Kolkata or Chennai from as far as Dibrugarh, in Assam.
According to Ms Reddy, though not a profit centre as yet, consumers are showing increasing interest in paying for such consultation.
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