HEALTH: Meet Dr Padmanabha Kamath, the Indian cardiologist bridging healthcare gap in rural Karnataka

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(October 4, 2021) Connecting some of Karnataka’s rural areas with a network of ECG (Electrocardiography) machines through the Cardiology At Doorstep (CAD) Foundation has been Mangalore-based cardiologist Dr Padmanabha Kamath’s dream initiative. But the last mile connectivity has been playing a spoilsport in delivering healthcare service in rural areas effectively. Not one to be deterred, Kamath has found the perfect solution in gram panchayats and anganwadis, besides developing an app that serves as a digital bridge.

“Imagine, what if there is no hospital, no clinic, no Jan Aushadhi Kendra in the vicinity. How are you going to bridge the gap? That was what was plaguing my mind. With this background, I started exploring the GPs and anganwadis because they are the face of the village most of the time,” he told Business Line.

This exploration led him to a number of gram panchayats and anganwadis that could be brought into the Gram Panchayat and Anganwadi Project (GAP) fold. It was in April 2021 that the first such ECG machine was installed at an anganwadi at Ampar (a remote village in Udupi district). Through GAP, Kamath is aiming to equip anganwadis and gram panchayats with basic preventive healthcare and early detection tools such as ECG, BP and blood sugar test kits. He is also training ASHA, angandwadi workers to operate simple health testing tools and get telemedicine advice in a short span of time through the app.

While the WhatsApp groups formed under CAD have been helping many, Kamath sensed that something was amiss. He launched Hrithkukshi, an app on Google Play, that proved to be the right step in providing digital connectivity in the last mile. The instant interaction with doctors to provide an opinion on an ECG report uploaded in rural areas by telemedicine operators is what works best for the patients. The app also has a provision to record the patient’s health problems in their native language and upload it. “I am not here to show that it is rocket science. I am just telling you that we can actually leverage technology and save a lot of lives,” he added.

Dr Kamath is an interventional cardiologist with Kasturbha Medical College and Hospital in Mangalore. In May 2021, he was conferred with the Rotary Vandana Award for his exemplary work in the field of Community Cardiology and in appreciation of his work in rural health care wherein he donated 375 ECG apparatus to the various primary health centres in districts of Karnataka.

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