Collaboration between institutes of technology and public health institutions can not only improve healthcare delivery, but also pave the way for Transformational Services Research (TSR) opportunities that allow scientists to research ways to make health policy more accessible and effective.

A collaboration between NIMHANS and IIIT Bangalore made it possible to launch on a national scale Tele Mental Health Support and contact with states (TV MANAS) program, recently. The central government had created the conditions for Tele MANAS Defined and submitted in the Union Budget 2022 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to manage its overall implementation.

Scope of service
Tele MANAS is being organized as a two-stage system. The first level includes the State Tele MANAS cells, which include trained counselors and mental health professionals. Level 2 includes District Mental Health Program (DMHP)/Medical College resources for physical consultation and/or e-Sanjeevani specialists for video consultation. The program enables trained counselors to provide mental health care through Tele MANAS. Each consultant spends approximately 15-30 minutes per call, depending on the situation, and each consultant on a shift attends approximately 30-50 calls per day. Depending on the level of assistance required, the advisor will either provide the necessary assistance or refer the caller to specialist assistance. Recently, a total of 51 cells were launched in 20 states of the country.

Technology can provide the right forum
“Tele MANAS is a forum to provide basic mental health care to people everywhere, and technology enables us to do that. Tele MANAS uses technology not only to provide support, but also to track in real time who is calling, from where. It also records who called, why they called, and how they were helped.Given the number of counselors involved in service delivery, there will be many requests over time to further improve the system. “We expect data to be collected and analyzed. This is called service research, and it helps us improve care systems, see where there are gaps and what the delay is between a patient’s call and care.” and then bring about positive changes in people’s lives,” says Pratima. Murthy, Director, NIMHANS.

Two institutions based in Bengaluru are playing a key role in implementing the program, NIMHANS is designing the program, IIIT Bangalore is handling its architecture and design. “We are presenting the technology to enable Tele MANAS and we are looking at how it can be implemented. We have integrated an interactive voice response (IVR) system where the caller is asked to press the number for the language of their choice and the call is then routed to an advisor who speaks that language. We have developed a solution, identified a usable IVR, a product platform and are working to roll it out in the states,” says TK Srikanth, Professor and E-Health Research Center, IIIT Bangalore, explaining that this is the first phase of the project. .

“In the next phase, we will add a video calling component. Many people’s problems are solved over a voice call and the consultant will be able to record some information using the app. The data will have two aspects, one showing the call pattern, how many people are calling and what time of the day they are calling, which will be analyzed by NIMHANS and IIIT Bangalore . The second will be related to the content of these calls, all of which will be useful over time. The data can be used for research, but there will be certain protocols about who can access it and for what purposes. IIIT-B students can work on how technology can be used to improve healthcare. While working on the program, the problem statement was how do we provide health care to people who do not have access to mental health counseling. We can provide this kind of service by solving technical problems on the road, but this cannot be done by a technology institute alone; it should be done through interdisciplinary linkages with institutes like NIMHANS. We need to first understand whether a particular solution will work and then we need to get the government involved to implement it across the country,” says Srikanth.

He added that the program creates research opportunities in several areas: on the technology side, how do you better provide such a service, how can you develop solutions that are useful in the field. Examining and improving clinical aspects of health care delivery. The data can also facilitate research related to disease and epidemiology.

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