Indian tele-cardiology helps young Malaysian heart patients

July 6th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, July 6 (IANS) Tele-cardiology, an online consultancy offered by a renowned Indian hospital, has helped shorten the long queues of heart patients, particularly children, in Malaysia. The tele-cardiology consultancy has been pioneered by Devi Prasad Shetty, chairman and chief cardiologist of Narayana Hrudayalaya (NH) Institute of Cardiac Sciences in Bangalore. It helps in diagnosis after the preliminary tests are conducted, preparing the patients for surgery, if needed.

As one of the world’s largest paediatric heart hospitals, Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 40 per cent of its surgeries on children, some as young as a day old.

Since 2006, MediAssist4U, a Malaysian NGO, has helped about 60 Malaysian children undergo corrective heart surgery with the help of the NH, the New Straits Times said Sunday.

During a tele-conference with the Malaysian media recently, Shetty said the tele-cardiology service between the Narayana Hrudayalaya and cardiac care centres in Malaysia, Mauritius and Bangladesh, had made cardiac care more affordable.

It also helps follow-up treatment of the patient in the home country.

The Bangalore hospital also offers cheaper surgery than Malaysia, where heart treatment is expensive and many people have to seek donations for treatment in private hospitals or go abroad.

Due to insufficient facilities and paediatric cardiac surgeons at Institut Jantung Negara and government hospitals, the waiting list for surgery is long. Time is often not on the side of young patients, the newspaper said.

“No child should have to beg for funds to live,” said Lawrence, medical director of MediAssist4U.

“Our aim is to make healthcare affordable to everyone because the language of pain and suffering does not discriminate. Our services are available to everyone, regardless of their financial status.”

Heart surgery for children costs around RM10,000 ($3,120 approx.) at NH, while for adults, charges are between RM8,000 ($2,500 approx.) and RM10,000 ($3,050 approx.).

Lawrence said the initial diagnosis was done at the MediAssist4U clinic, which is connected online to the Narayana Hospital.

“For example, we do the ECG and other tests at our clinic here and the information is transmitted to the cardiologists at Narayana Hrudayalaya, who diagnose the patient’s condition and recommend treatment.”

“We have done over 2,700 ECGs for free over the past five years. And it doesn’t cost us anything because everything is online and we have specialists from private and government hospitals who volunteer their services.”

Once a diagnosis has been made, the patient can choose to have the treatment or corrective surgery done locally or at NH.

“Because of the long waiting period and high cost of surgery here, many opt to do it at Narayana Hrudayalaya.”

In most cases, the cost of surgery, plus travel and accommodation for the accompanying relative, does not exceed RM15,000 ($4950).

The low cost and world-class treatment at the hospital have come as a blessing to hundreds of Malaysians, especially children, who suffer from a range of heart ailments, including complicated cases such as ectopic heart in which the heart is not properly located in the body.

This facility also enabled easier follow-up treatment of the patient from the home country.

The 285-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya conducts 30 open heart surgeries every day, half of which are done free.

It is the first hospital in Asia to carry out an artificial heart transplant on a 54-year-old Indian man in March, the newspaper said.

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