Union Budget 2022: How IIIT Bangalore is supporting the National Tele Mental Health Programme announced by FM Sitharaman

To learn more about this project, Financial Express Online spoke to Professor TK Srikanth, Director of the E-Health Research Centre, IIIT Bangalore.

Union Budget 2022 Telemental Health Program: On February 1, during her Budget Speech in Parliament, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a National Tele Mental Health Programme. The program, which has been hailed by all sectors of the population as having the potential to change mental health care in the country, is proposed to consist of 23 mental health telecenters with NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences of Bangalore) acting as the hub. Meanwhile, for this, the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIIT-B) would provide the technology expertise.

The announcement came as Sitharaman stated that the pandemic has led to an increase in mental health-related problems among people of all ages. This measure is expected to help people have easier access to quality mental health care and counseling services.

Also read | 2022 Union Budget: NIMHANS director praises Center’s ‘groundbreaking’ proposal for creation of National Tele Mental Health Program

To understand more about this project, Financial Express Online spoke to Professor TK Srikanth, Director, E-Health Research Centre, IIIT Bangalore, who said that the project would be a network of mental health focused telehealth centers with NIMHANS in the center. “Essentially, the centers would be staffed with psychiatrists and other medical personnel who would help provide mental health care services,” he said.

Speaking about the geographical coverage of the project, he said: “This will be geographically spread across the country so that people can connect with their local doctors who can also speak in their local language.”

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While the mental health boost is much needed, especially in a country like India where mental health issues are kept secret and often swept under the rug, an important question is why telemental health .

“The idea behind this is that the pandemic has made it very clear that mental health is important. There are two aspects to the National Tele Mental Health Program. One is that the need for mental health support among people is increasing and two, telehealth is a viable way to help patients communicate with doctors. Telemental health makes things simpler,” said Professor Srikanth. “The main plan is to first establish a complete network and make services accessible to people across the country. Within that, we’re looking at the kind of technology needed to bring all of this together to have a platform where all of the patient data can be collected and moved,” he explained.

Essentially, the Tele Mental Health Program would be a network of centers that are spread across India and served locally. However, they will have some level of integration within them in some way, which is currently being worked out. In the midst of all this, NIMHANS would act as the nodal center that would help in the design of the configuration, training and monitoring of all these centers.

IIIT-B is looking solely at the technology aspect of this program, and is working closely with NIMHANS to discover how technology can play a role in delivering mental health services to people, the Financial Express has learned. On-line.

As FE Online previously reported, IIIT-B had previously worked with NIMHANS to create a mental health platform for Karnataka itself, so the two institutions have been working together on these aspects for the last six or seven years. “There are a variety of projects that we have worked on where we look at how mental health service, which could be anything in mental health in a clinical space, can be enhanced and digitized with the help of technology,” IIIT-B said. . Professor Srikanth said.

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One of these projects was the e-Manas mental health platform which had been developed by IIIT-B in collaboration with NIMHANS for the Karnataka government to integrate mental health services across the southern state. In 2020, the then director of the IIIT-B, Professor S Sadagopan, reported to FE Online that the e-Manas portal had also caught the interest of the Center.

Now, while the National Tele Mental Health Program is currently in its early stages, the Center has retained the same institutes, NIMHANS and IIIT-B, to implement this project on a national scale.

According to Professor Srikanth, there are several aspects that need to be considered, such as video conferencing capabilities to facilitate consultation between the patient and the health service provider. A long-term goal is also to integrate patient data so that mental health records are available in a digitized system. This would eliminate the need for a patient to carry their health documents with them everywhere while visiting a new doctor, instead allowing doctors to access records from a central database after the patient gives permission. In the long term, this would integrate mental and physical health, allowing treatment for both to go hand in hand rather than in silos, FE Online understands.

However, there are certain challenges, such as the fact that health and related data is a state issue, which means that patient data should be kept separate.

“Our focus is on this technological platform that will be improved and we will integrate more and more services on it, so that we can support this network of telemedicine and telehealth centers,” he said.

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