Telemedicine veteran Dr Sanjay Sood isn’t just busy rolling out the Government of India’s eSanjeevani - the National Telemedicine Service - an ambitious and timely intervention that is widely slated to become the world's largest telemedicine platform. In many ways, he is also leading India’s big leap into a connected future, one where healthcare will be more agile, accessible and affordable.
A State Awardee (Chandigarh Administration) for rendering outstanding IT advisory services with over 20 years of experience in large-scale IT implementation programs both in India and overseas, Dr Sood – who is the Project Director of eSanjeevani and is heading Healthcare Informatics at C-DAC Mohali - is no stranger to mission-critical leadership where the stakes are as high as they are critical.
After all, he has, in the past, been a telemedicine consultant with World Health Organisation (Afro), advised policymakers (Secretary IT, Chandigarh) on matters such as eGovernance and Digital India, and worked on eHealth with the governments of several countries as well as International Multilateral Funding Agencies including the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
No wonder that, despite his multi-dimensional journey, when you ask him to single out ONE life-changing ‘Eureka Moment’ in his life, Dr Sood fondly recalls that day in 2018 when eSanjeevani was selected as the national telemedicine platform by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India, beating over a dozen telemedicine platforms to win the coveted honour. Dr Sood had patiently and painstakingly toiled like a Trojan and waited for this day for almost 2 decades. The unmistakable euphoria in his voice, every time he recounts the event, is a tell-tale clue of his deep passion for telemedicine.
You can notice the passion lighting up in Dr Sanjay Sood’s face as he enthusiastically elaborates, “There is a significant shortfall of doctors, specialists and hospitals in our country - especially in rural India. The burden on secondary and tertiary health care facilities due to non-availability of services at the primary level is extremely high. IT applications to digitize and modernize the healthcare ecosystem – something that has the potential to turn the tables – is sorely missing. In such a context, eSanjeevani is an answer to a billion prayers. To borrow a pun, it is ‘just what the doctor ordered’.
Continues Dr Sood without breaking breath: “There are several reasons why eSanjeevani is a game-changer. The fact that it offers free service successfully mimics a hospital-based OPD, is citizen-friendly, has found equal adoption on both provider and user ends and is continuously evolving … all make eSanjeevani truly iconic. Perhaps even a global benchmark.”
“There were no setbacks per se. Challenges did show up but these were addressed by collective efforts of all stakeholders”, Dr Sood shares. Like a true leader, he doesn’t want to play up the downside. After all, the power of positivity can move mountains and can play a big role in keeping the morale of his teams and partners charged.
“Our goal, going forward, is to work towards evolving eSanjeevani into the largest and most used telemedicine platform in the world. At the moment, the eSanjeevani network is recording over 11,000 teleconsultations in a day. We are approaching the milestone of one million teleconsultations, cumulatively speaking. And we are gradually scaling up to 1,00,000 consultations per day. In five years time, we envision eSanjeevani to be the gold standard and point of reference when it comes to telemedicine – not just in India, but all around the world. It will be a stellar testimony to the power and possibilities of Atmanirbhar Bharat”, says this architect of change.
All leaders leave a legacy - some do so indelibly. Dr Sanjay Sood has been one of the telemedicine’s more active minds ever since 1999, and by the way, things are moving, his significant impact on India’s growth curve will be remembered for a long time.
Typically placing the nation ahead of the self, Dr Sood responds with humble yet steely conviction in his voice, “I would want India to emerge as the Land of Telemedicine. As for me, I’m happy being remembered simply as “The eSanjeevani Guy.”
As someone who has authored over 50 world-class publications and book-chapters on telemedicine, the man can be considered a repository of valuable wisdom.
“Passion & Perseverance can take you far. And here’s an advice picked up from personal experience: Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true!”, pat comes the reply.
Any message for readers through the Voice of Healthcare (VOH) Platform?
Dr Sanjay Sood underscores the importance of thinking big as he affectionately quotes J Naisbitt: “The future has this unusual habit of suddenly and dramatically becoming the present.”
*This story is published by VOH Team*
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