Now ATMs will dispense medicines!

New Delhi: Under a Health Ministry programme, five healthcare ATMs have come up in four states — MP, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.  In hope of sweeping  away the massive shortage of doctors in the country these ATMs are set up.

Each ATM will be manned by a multipurpose public health worker (MPHW) or an auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) armed with a multi-parameter patient vital monitor and other devices required for checking basic health parameters. Through a GSM-based monitor, 

indicators would be transmitted to a medical call centre , after the patient has registered. For starters, basic health parameters such as temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose and blood hemoglobin will be checked and the data instantly transmitted.

At the call centre, doctors will evaluate the condition of the patient, if necessary will talk to him or her and decide whether the person needs to be referred to a centre where a doctor is available or whether can be treated locally with medications.

In the case of simple medications, a prescription will be generated and a command given automatically to the ATM to dispense only the drug prescribed, and no other. The MPHW will explain the dosage to the patient. And in case urgent referral is required, the 108 ambulance service will be made available at the sub-centre.

India currently has 0.51 doctors per 1,000 population, half the 1:1,000 ratio recommended by World Health Organization. Rural India’s ratio is 0.63 per 10,000.

The concept of an ATM for healthcare, where the machine is essentially a patient portal that delivers a limited set of medical services, is catching on across the world and being tried out in various forms. While commercial versions have a built-in payment option, but according to sources the one the ministry if trying out will be free for the patient.