The Role of Telemedicine in the Current Scenario #coronavirus

Imagine a scenario where you could consult your doctor without having to travel, wait in the queue in the hospital/clinic or even avoid the risk of getting an infection from other patients waiting at the same place, specially in times like these where there is a viral pandemic- Welcome to the world of telemedicine.

Though they say there is no substitute to the physician’s touch while treating an illness, in today’s real world scenario it is still prudent and technically feasible to consult your doctor online and seek timely medical advice with a mobile phone/I pad/Laptop. Healthcare and other medical services can be easily accessed with the help of a smart phone. It has become more convenient to track, regulate, and monitor several details such as medicine intake, lab investigations and treatment. The communication gap between the patients and doctors for want of time and distance, has reduced over the years owing to advancements in technology.

For years together, the medical student is taught that a proper history & thorough clinical examination is the basic prerequisite to arrive at a provisional diagnosis, prior to ordering investigations. The feel of the pulse, auscultation of the chest and placing the well informed hand on the abdomen to feel the lumps and bumps can never be taken for granted.

However, the covid-19 pandemic is hastening the transition to a new model of remotely delivered healthcare that embraces the benefits of digital and data technologies. Though it may not be seen as a solution to the current crisis, it will have far reaching repercussions in the days to come.

Telemedicine has been conceptualised quite a long time back, it has been steadily on the rise in recent times. However it has not become a mainstream form of patient interaction because it defies the age old custom of the physical visit to the doctor. Besides, it needed to overcome regulatory and commercial hurdles, also requiring a proper digital infrastructure that ensures secure connection between patient and physicians. In India, the guidelines proposed a few years back, were sanctioned by the centre to cope with the covid-19 outbreak. Globally, telemedicine has also acquired validation with the Centers for disease control and prevention in the USA and National health Service in the UK.

As people face a nationwide lockdown and need medical consultations midst travel restrictions, remote health care facilitates an important and growing need to fill in the void in the current scenario. Since the beginning of March, the number of patients seeking teleconsultation on digital health care platform, has more than tripled, as per reports. Apart from the patients facing an acute illness, wherein the services in the emergency setup in the hospital is life saving, most of the other routine out-patient consultations can be managed through a digital interface, atleast for the time being. Not only does it save time and cut commutes, when doctors see patients over audio or video calls, the facilities can conserve protective equipment for healthcare workers, which is of paramount importance today.

Telemedicine practice can prevent the transmission of infectious diseases, reducing the risks to both healthcare workers and patients. A telemedicine visit can be conducted without exposing staff to viruses/infections in times of such outbreaks.

Video visits are more efficient, requiring fewer health-care workers to manage the consultation, freeing them to work on other tasks. The use of chatbots, or “doctor-less