CHENNAI: Doctors, who encounter a tuberculosis patient, can soon notify the government in a minute using the Nikshay app that will be launched in the coming weeks, said Dr Darez Ahamed, mission director, National Health Mission (NHM), Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday.
Speaking at a meeting organised by REACH, a non-profit organisation working on TB, Dr Ahamed said the government would not be able to eradicate tuberculosis unless it identified every patient. The Nikshay app would provide an interface for private health care providers to quickly intimate the government about TB incidence.
“The NHM is committed to providing the necessary financial support to address TB in Chennai and across Tamil Nadu. This includes the roll-out of the Direct Benefit Transfer schemes that will provide support to TB patients and affected communities,” he said.
“There is an existing Nikshay website that allows private physicians to update their cases online. However, it is cumbersome and cannot be done without a desktop. To overcome this challenge, the NHM will bring out the app in March and sensitise doctors to use it,” he said.
In a move to further increase reportage on tuberculosis, the government is also working on an online registry for pharmacists to enter the sale of Schedule H drugs. Schedule H drugs cannot be sold over the counter and patients need prescriptions to buy them. “So, the pharmacists will have to submit the names of the doctors who prescribe the drugs, dosage, names of the patients and other details online,” said K Sivabalan, director, Drugs Control. This process has so far been done manually every month-end, leading to severe exclusion, he noted.
According to the report of ‘Project Equip’ – a public-private partnership model to end tuberculosis, more than a third of patients referred by pharmacists were diagnosed with the disease. “A driver once came to me after losing his job due to persistent cough and asked for medicine. I referred him to the local TB clinic and he was diagnosed with it. He was cured completely in six months, that too, with free treatment. He called me his god,” said G Thiagarajan, who runs Guna Pharmacy in Adyar.
Involving pharmacists in notification of tuberculosis is a crucial step taken by the government to find the “missing” tuberculosis patients, said Dr PR Narayanan, director, National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT). “Unless you have an interface agency that is accessible, we will not be able to achieve success at scale”, he said, adding that private pharmacists play a crucial role in preventing the rise of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.