eGovernance in India

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National Informatics Centre’s (NIC) Services for Medical and Health Professionals in India using 487 CIC’s in NORTHEAST INDIA

Posted by egovindia on June 22, 2006

National Informatics Centre’s (NIC) Services for Medical and Health Professionals in

Shefali. S. Dash, Naina Pandita

National Informatics Centre, A-Block, CGO Complex,

Lodhi Road, New Delhi


AbstractNational Informatics Centre (NIC), set up in 1977, was the first premier government organization to introduce IT in
India.   With centres all across the length and breadth of the country, NIC’s satellite based computer communication network, NICNET, is connecting the common man.  Set up in 1988, NICNET is one of the largest VSAT based networks with over 1400 VSATs installed.  In 1986, NIC in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) set up the ICMR-NIC Centre for Biomedical Information. Recognized as the 17th International MEDLARS Centre or Indian MEDLARS Centre (IMC), this Centre has strived to meet the ever-increasing information needs of medical professionals in the country.   IMC’s website, serves as a portal to health information available over the Net. This site has received several awards for design and content and is ranked the top Indian health site by Google. IMC has also designed and developed three indigenous free access databases, IndMED (, medIND ( and Union Catalogue of Biomedical Periodicals (   NIC’s Community Information Centres (CICs) have been set up to provide citizen centric services to the people in the remote areas of the North East and
Sikkim. One such service is the Distance Education Programmes for the medical community, which includes lectures by specialists followed by question-answer sessions. Using Video Conference facility, NIC has been able to provide a value added service for the professionals in these areas.  More recently, NIC has collaborated with SGPGI,
Lucknow and used the expertise of the specialists to make these programmes successful.

Keywords: National Informatics Centre, NICNET, Indian MEDLARS Centre, IndMED, medIND, Community Information Centres, Distance Education Programmes 



Center (NIC) in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) set up the ICMR-NIC Centre for Biomedical Information in 1986.  NICNET served as the main wireless tool for providing the biomedical information services to the medical professionals in the country.  Recognized as the 17th International MEDLARS Centre or Indian MEDLARS Centre (IMC –, the medical professionals are provided information services from the resources available over Internet, the main being the MEDLARS databases being available from National Library of Medicine (NLM),
USA.   Over the years the Centre’s role evolved from “content providers” to “content generators” and IMC emerged as main player in the area of biomedical databases development.  IMC’s three major free access databases, IndMED (bibliographic database of 77 peer reviewed Indian biomedical journals), medIND (full-text of select IndMED journals) and Union Catalogue of Biomedical Periodicals (holdings data of 180 biomedical libraries) have become to be the most widely used resources.  

NIC has also set up Community Information Centres (CICs) in 487 blocks of the eight North Eastern States to provide citizen centric services to the people of these remote areas.   These CICs have been provided with Internet and email facilities enabling the citizens to remain connected to the rest of the country.   Using NIC’s Videoconferencing infrastructure, a special Distance Education Programme was launched for the doctors of the region.  Specialists are invited to deliver a lecture on specific topics for the benefit of doctors not only in the state capitals, but also doctors present at the CICs.   The lectures are followed by question-answer sessions and are broadcast over television to the CICs.  Questions are either asked interactively or through CIC’s website (for CICs’ participants).    


MethodsInitially, Indian MEDLARS Centre (IMC) was providing biomedical information services to the medical community from the MEDLINE CDROM databases.  In addition, the NLM host computer was accessed through a dial-up modem that resulted in slow retrieval of information.  From 1989 NLM’s MEDLARS databases were accessed over NICNET and in addition from other biomedical CDROM databases.   IMC’s focus of services shifted with the introduction of Internet in areas of biomedical research/medicine. The “content provider” Centre became “content generator” and in 1998 IMC started developing a bibliographic database of peer reviewed Indian biomedical journals. 

  • IndMED database (  Based on the poor coverage of Indian biomedical literature in international resources, the Indian MEDLARS Centre took up the onus of filling this gap by developing an indigenous database with bibliographic details taken from 75 Indian biomedical, peer reviewed journals, since 1985 onwards. When the database was developed, only non-MEDLINE journals were covered [1]. However, over the years some of these journals got included in MEDLINE, but these continued to be included in IndMED, keeping in mind NLM’s changing policies. IndMED has been designed and developed on similar format used by NLM’s MEDLINE database using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) for indexing purposes. It has been named as IndMED to reflect its scope of covering Indian biomedical literature. The aim of this database is to provide exposure to articles published in learned biomedical journals from
    India. The database can be searched using simple and advanced search engines and is free-text searchable plus keyword searchable. This is searchable free of cost from the webpage ( to users in India, as well as those outside
    IndiaIts Web interface provides three levels of searching and three levels of display of the search results. The display of references also provides hypertext links in case source journal is available on the Internet [2].



  • Online full-text database – medIND (  With the successful launch and use of IndMED database it was decided to design a new database covering the full-text of articles from the journals covered in IndMED [3]. The new online database of full-text of Indian biomedical journals is being developed with an aim of creating a one-point resource of all Indian biomedical journals.  Till date no such resource exists in the country, which was one of the main decisive factors in designing such a database that would not only benefit the Indian medical professionals, but also those outside India who have limited resources to access the research information published in India. For creating this vast database the consent of participating editors is being taken for inclusion of the full-text of their respective journals. Initially, only current issues of journals are being included in the database.  The editors are not being charged any fee for web hosting and the access is also being provided free of cost. The medIND site has an independent domain name ( with the home page giving details to the site, including participation information and terms of use.  Journal articles are being scanned and after OCR (with correction of all possible errors) converted to PDF documents.  These are then being made available on the website.  The articles in the database can be accessed by Browsing/Searching/Display modes.



  • Union Catalogue of Biomedical Periodicals ( Using concept of resource sharing and making available information on the availability of journals in biomedical libraries in
    India, IMC took up the project of preparing a database of the holdings of these libraries. This task was voluminous as well challenging as nearly 200 biomedical libraries had to be contacted to collect the data for compilation of the union catalogue of biomedical periodicals.  In addition, to compiling of the holdings data, the hosting and updating were also involved. At present this union catalogue comprises of holdings of 188 medical institutions, colleges, and R&D institutions, since 1990 onwards [1]. This database contains details like library address, details of journals including available volume(s) / issue(s) and missing volume(s) / issue(s) helping the medical professionals and medical librarians locate journals in these 188 libraries across
    India. Users can search the database by Journal name(s)/details or Library name(s)/details.



  • Distance Education Programmes:  As the CICs were being set up NIC decided to experiment in “bringing” the specialists to the doctors in North East using the existing Videoconference facilities [4].  These distance education sessions were aimed at small groups of doctors in different areas of specialization and were restricted to a brief lecture/presentation by a specialist followed by a question answer session.  In these sessions doctors from the Northeast were able to discuss different aspects of a disease like the diagnostic aspects, treatment and management aspects or a drug.  The 1st such session was organized in October 2001 wherein a senior Gastroenterologist, Dr. Randhir Sud was invited from
    New Delhi.  The specialist, while sitting at NIC Hqrs.,
    New Delhi could address the problem of Diagnosis and Management of Hepatitis A & B, areas of great interest to the doctors in the North East.  Subsequently programmes were organized once a month for the doctors and these included a lecture by Dr. Naresh Trehan of
    New Delhi on Coronary Artery Diseases.  In 2003, NIC and SGPGI, Lucknow launched a collaborative programme on Distance Education for the doctors in North East as well for those coming to CICs at the block levels.  Using the VSAT and VC equipment, set up by NIC at SGPGI, the specialists and doctors in North Eastern region were able to participate in these far reaching education programmes.  Doctors in
    Lakshadweep have also started participating in these programmes. The programmes are being video broadcast to the CICs enabling doctors in the remotest part of the region to benefit from them.  The participating doctors are able to interact with the specialists either interactively or through CIC website, which has the facility for online registration for participating in the programmes. The lecture topics delivered by SGPGI specialists till date are:


    1. Recent Trends in Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis – Prof. R.K. Mishra
    2. Budd Chiary Syndrome – Dr. Kartar Singh (Director)
    3. Birth Defects of heart, its presentation and treatment – Dr. Nirmal Gupta
    4. Diagnostic Approaches to Infective Diarrhea in the Community and Rational Antibiotic Therapy – Dr. Archana Ayyaggari
    5. Principles of Management of Diabetic Foot & its prevention- Dr. A.K. Verma
    6. Congenital Malformations: before and after birth – Dr. Shubha Phadke



[IndMED page] 

[Figure I: IndMED Display] 


[Figure II: medIND Homepage (] 


[Figure III: Journal Content Page]


NIC has been able to reach out to the medical professionals in the country by providing services to meet their information needs through the Indian MEDLARS Centre’s diverse services.  Value added services like the IndMED and medIND databases are enabling these professionals to get peer reviewed Indian biomedical literature at a click of mouse. The Union Catalogue of Biomedical Serials provides assistance in locating journals in the medical libraries in the country. Professionals in India as well as those outside
India are accessing IMC databases.  NIC’s distance education programmes for the medical and health professionals in the North Eastern region enable them to enhance their knowledge as well as clinical skills. These programmes, which include lectures and question answer sessions have resulted in successful bridging the knowledge gap for doctors in remote areas of the region.



The National Informatics Centre has been providing information services to the medical community since 1986.  With the changing technologies, NIC has shifted the focus of the services to “content generation” aiding the medical professionals in seeking relevant information for their research/clinical purposes.  These databases are going to serve the Indian medical community by providing free access to peer reviewed Indian biomedical literature. Information from the IndMED database would be complemented by the availability of full-text of information from medIND. The Distance Education programmes are reaching out to the medical/health professionals in remote areas of the country. These programmes are assisting in improving the skill of the doctors and are having a far-reaching impact on the health services being provided by the doctors in these areas. 


NIC has initiated a wide range of services for the medical professionals in the country. Starting with the information services, NIC has been able to meet the basic information needs of the medical community assisting both the professionals and researchers.   With the Distance Education programmes for doctors in remote areas of the country, NIC has assisted these doctors in enhancing their knowledge and clinical skills, which in turn helps in better health care facilities. Address of Corresponding AuthorNational Informatics Centre, A-Block, CGO Complex,

Lodhi Road, New Delhi

110003. Email: 


1. Pandita N, Dash S.S. Indian Medlars Centre: Internet and biomedical information for the Indian medical professional. MEDNET 2003,4-7 December 2003,

2. Singh S, Pandita N,
Gaba SK and Aggarwal R. IndMED: Indian biomedical research database developed at NIC.  Electronic Information Environment and Library Services. Forty Eighth All India Library Conference,
Bangalore, January 2003.

3. Pandita N, Singh, S. IndMED and medIND  – NIC’s Online Biomedical databases. Biennial Conference of Indian Association of Health Informatics at PGI,
Chandigarh, 18-19 October 2002

4. Dash S.S, Kumar, S. National Informatics Centre’s initiatives in Distance Education for medical professionals remote areas of North East & Sikkim. Biennial Conference of Indian Association of Health Informatics at PGI,
Chandigarh, 18-19 October 2002.



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