The healthcare sector has seen a significant shift in gender dynamics, with women accounting for over 30% of doctors and a whopping 80% of nurses and midwives in India. However, their representation at leadership levels in technical domains remains a matter of concern – with only 22% of positions such as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO) held by women.1 Healthcare tech is an emerging field and is seen by many as a potential avenue of leadership for women – and a possible equalizer, given that technical fields have always been dominated by men.
In this scenario, Krishna Medical Centre (KMC), a multi-specialty hospital spearheaded by Dr Geeta Khanna, is bringing not only healthcare access to remote areas but also, building capacities of women in healthcare tech. As a Medical Director of KMC, Dr. Khanna is insistent upon providing opportunities for women to take up leadership roles. Her drive to advance women in healthcare is evident through a rather remarkable 85% representation of women in KMC’s staff.
The hospital’s latest intervention has provided women the opportunity to run a tele-medicine center in its satellite clinic in the district of Tiuni, Uttarakhand. This center is led and operated by an all-women staff. They are comprehensively trained in computer skills to facilitate teleconsultations between doctors and patients in remote areas. They also handle the procurement of medical supplies for community members.
Ritika Panwar, a 21-year-old pharmacist employed at the KMC telemedicine center speaks of her learning and growth, “I had a very basic understanding of using computers and smartphones before. Through the training at Krishna Medical Centre, I learnt a lot more about using these devices. I am now proficient in using them to facilitate health consultations for people in my community through the telemedicine center. This has changed people’s perceptions of me. From being seen as just another young girl in the neighborhood, I am now recognized as someone knowledgeable and often approached by community members for guidance on different matters.”
KMC’s satellite clinics serve a diverse demographic and are deeply committed to health equity. Patients range from affluent community members to those from vulnerable, low-income backgrounds. The women-led satellite telemedicine center also plays a crucial role in facilitating open discussions about topics that are traditionally frowned upon in their communities, such as menstruation, fertility, and sexuality. Having women nurses and health workers at the telecentre encourages women of all ages to seek information, allowing them to make better health decisions.
Reena, a 26-year-old auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM), shares her perspectives, “I don’t have children, but I do have younger siblings at home. I teach them the importance of treating everyone equally and respectfully, irrespective of their gender. I constantly reinforce the idea that women should have access to the same opportunities as men and should not be curbed while pursuing the same. I want all young women around me to look at me and my colleagues as an inspiration that women can also create a large impact.”
Through their stories, Ritika and Reena embody the transformational power of education and empowerment. They are not just healthcare workers – they are role models, inspiring others to break down gender barriers and strive for equality. Ritika has found financial independence and self-reliance because of being technologically trained and able to use Apps to manage her money. Reena believes that technical skills can enable young women to be part of what have traditionally been male-dominated fields. Both women look forward to mentoring the younger generations and inspiring girls to become independent.
This intervention provides an invaluable opportunity for women in tier-2 and -3 cities to take on a larger role in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector. By generating employment through technology, KMC is creating new avenues for not just doctors and nurses, but also women from low-income and underprivileged backgrounds who are part of the support staff at these centers.
SAMRIDH, supported by the USAID and implemented by IPE Global, is helping expand KMC’s reach in Uttarakhand through blended financing methods. The additional funds will enable the center to raise additional bank loans to cover equipment and management costs. With support from SAMRIDH, Krishna Medical Centre is reshaping healthcare in remote areas, and empowering women in the process. It is initiatives like these that challenge the status quo, open new pathways to address pressing issues and propel women to lead the change.