Out of the 1.34 billion people who call India their home, approximately 72% lives in rural areas. People living in the countryside face healthcare challenges in two ways. One, their low literacy levels allow for a limited understanding of health conditions and best wellness practices and two, healthcare infrastructure is poorly developed, inaccessible or unavailable. The adult literacy rate for females in rural areas is 50.6% whereas, for males, it is 74.1%.
A big urban-rural gap exists in the healthcare system of our country. While a metropolitan city like Mumbai has more MRI scanners than London, a large percentage of the rural population is unable to read and understand the simplest of sentences, even in their regional language making accurate health delivery a daunting task. Realising this, Dr. Amit Kumar Sinha, an Endocrinologist practising in Patna and a HealthPlix doctor since 2020, has made it his mission to improve health literacy in the rural areas of his state.
He says, “If a patient with diabetes is not able to understand why he/she needs to continue taking his/her medications for at least six months and not eat certain kinds of foods, they are not likely to comply with the doctor’s medical advice. This high dropout rate and incomplete treatment lead to a more severe medical condition and health damages.”
Dr. Sinha has made dedicated efforts towards improving knowledge about rampant diseases like diabetes, thyroid and osteoporosis in the countryside.
“It is very important to spread awareness about diseases in villages. I make devoted visits to villages in my state and take public sessions to inform people about health conditions. People living in towns still have some level of awareness about these issues but it is especially difficult for people from the villages to understand these disorders. It has not been easy. When I started, only a few people used to show up but gradually, I saw more than 100 people joining in the sessions, including the local medical practitioners. My sessions were aimed at informing the villagers about these diseases in simple language and training the local medical practitioners on how to treat patients in the village and avoid common mistakes.”
Healthcare in villages works differently. Rather than visiting a physician, most people will discuss their health problems with their family members. Unmarried women seek advice from their mothers, elder sisters, or married women in the neighbourhood; married women will discuss their health problems with other women in the village and most often try a home remedy or will see a local indigenous medical practitioner (RMP) rather than go to a medical centre. It is only when their problem gets worse that they seek a doctor. “So, more efforts like these will help us mobilise their communities to achieve better sanitation and hygiene, family planning, women and child nutrition and better health in rural areas. It is also crucial to bring health care to those who cannot travel to a primary health care centre and telemedicine is one of the most efficient ways to bring health care to rural villages. Telemedicine platforms like HealthPlix enable for people in remote villages to consult with a doctor by video at minimal costs”, adds Dr. Sinha
“This is where HealthPlix has helped me a lot. I use HealthPlix in both of my clinics, in Patna and Hajipur. In a country like India, it is required that doctors communicate clearly with their patients, using regional languages and familiar vocabulary. HealthPlix EMR has a feature to write regional Rx and the software auto-learns to suggest auto-fill accurately during my consultations. So, the time that used to go in writing Rx manually is now better utilised in discussing health with my patients. Sitting in Patna in Bihar, I am also consulting with patients from literally any city or state in India. I am still available for consultations to my patients who live in Bangalore or Jharkand and that is so gratifying to me. HealthPlix is in my experience one of the best EMRs in India.”
As we have seen even more prominently in the pandemic, low health literacy is a threat to the health and well-being of Indians and the Indian healthcare system. But, all is not dull and doom. There are some outstanding stories like that of Dr. Amit Kumar Sinha that serve as a beacon of hope for our nation. HealthPlix appreciates his efforts and feels honoured to have doctors like him in our doctor community.
Dr. Amit Kumar Sinha (MBBS, MD, FEDM, CDE, AACE (USA) is a trusted Endocrinologist in Patna, Bihar with experience of 15 years. He is a HealthPlix doctor since October 2020.