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How ISRO’s Operational Competencies improved critical care medicine in India

Story of an endeavor to incorporate the best quality practices of ISRO in emergency medicine and critical care medicine

What has Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) got to do with healthcare delivery in India? And we are not talking about Telemedicine. Every time ISRO successfully puts up a satellite in space there is all round jubilation. But one forgets that this success is a cumulative effect of various departments who do not leave any room for error.

In the same way, a successful healthcare delivery system should have no room for error, but this is not always the case. The effectiveness of the healthcare delivery system depends on complex and varying interplay of several factors, making it vulnerable to a high incidence of errors. Data from developed countries show that nine out of every 100 patients who are hospitalized encounter medical error related events.

Association of Healthcare Providers is working towards minimising such errors. “Studies show that 5.2 million medical errors are happening in India annually,” said Dr Alexander Thomas, President, (AHPI). “Maintaining quality and developing protocols for error free healthcare delivery is one way of solving this problem,” He added.

With this aim in mind Dr Thomas met Dr K Kasturirangan, former Chairman- ISRO and this chance meeting led to the novel idea of adopting some of the appropriate best practices of ISRO in healthcare.

ISRO and healthcare

ISRO is one of the largest and most successful space organizations in the world, with an immaculate performance record, evidenced by its aim to consistently deliver zero-defect systems. Under GRAMSAT (rural satellite) programme ISRO has already undertaken telemedicine projects, through Indian Satellites linking remote/rural areas like Jammu, Kashmir and Ladhak in north near Himalayas, Offshore Islands of Andaman and Lakshadweep, North Eastern States & some of the remote and tribal districts in the main land States across the country.


The next step for Dr Thomas was to get the likeminded people under one roof to discuss how ISRO best practices could be matched with healthcare delivery. “We debated and decided that focus should be on two areas with high-mortality rate; the emergency medicine and critical care medicine. These departments cater to a high number of critical patients and it was mutually agreed that adapting best quality practices here would significantly bring down mortality and morbidity,” informed Dr Thomas.

Under the leadership of A.S Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO and the Association of Health Care Providers India a meeting was organised in Jan 2017, which was attended by prominent members of both organisations along with stakeholders from Consortium of Accredited Healthcare Organizations (CAHO), Planet Aerospace, NABH, Society for Emergency Medicine, India (SEMI) and the Indian Society for Critical Care Medicine (ISCCM). Subsequently the stakeholders met multiple times to shape up the Indian guidelines in these two very important areas of healthcare delivery.

“I am glad that the Indian medical fraternity is very keen on adopting some of the best quality practices of ISRO into the areas of emergency care and critical care departments. Our organisation stands by our vision to harness space technology for national development,” said Kiran Kumar.

The core focus areas, as suggested and agreed by domain experts, were discussed at length at ISRO headquarters, Bengaluru. The best quality practices of ISRO, were incorporated into these areas and the resulting document underwent several reviews.  Finally, under Kiran Kumar’s exemplary leadership and farsightedness, the joint efforts between all these organizations resulted in a document called Health QUEST (Quality Upgradation Enabled by Space Technology). This unique collaboration between a space organization and the field of medicine is the first of its kind in the country.

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