Doc on Call: The Next Generation of Healthcare
By Kavya Aggarwal
How many times have you heard that the internet has transformed modern life?
It has indeed changed how you stay in touch with friends and family, buy your favourite clothes, stay on top of your schoolwork, and even search for medical health services.
The internet has a pervasive presence in the healthcare industry. The telehealth industry (also called e-health) essentially combines communication technology and digital information to provide access to health services remotely. Many experts believe that telehealth is a promising solution in terms of bridging the gap between unmatched demand and supply in the health industry.
Consider an example of how telehealth can help you if you have thyroid:
-Consistent Monitoring is essential for people who have thyroid. Telehealth technology enables you to have frequent access to your healthcare provider who can make sure you’re adhering to your treatments and touch base with you on disease progression or course of treatment in between in-person appointments.
-Outreach to leading specialists: Telehealth in many ways has democratised access to some of the nation’s and the world’s leading specialists. You can reach an expert or a leading researcher who specialises in thyroid disease from the comfort of your home.
-Cost-effectiveness and expanded access[c]: Telehealth saves cost by provision of all services in the comfort of your own home.As per report published by Health Leaders Media “The net cost savings to the patient or payer per telemedicine visit of $19 to $121 represents meaningful cost savings when compared with the $49 cost of an on-demand visit.”[d]
The first published record of telehealth services was in the twentieth century when an ECG was sent over telephone lines. Telemedicine has come a long way since then, in terms of both healthcare delivery and technology. As wireless broadband technology has advanced and cell phone and internet use have become nearly ubiquitous over the last several decades, e-health and telemedicine have become stress-free and cost-effective.
Current Scenario in India
India is a large country with a population of over 130 million people. As a result, equitable distribution of healthcare services has repeatedly proven to be a major goal in public health management. To put a number on the inadequacy, the WHO recommends a doctor-to-population ratio of 1:1000, whereas India’s current doctor-to-population ratio is only 0.62:1000.
However, this shortfall is partially offset by active telemedicine services in various parts of the country.
There are various types of telehealth services that are available and can be categorised as follows:
(i) Real-time medical appointment and transfer of information
(ii) Store-and-forward telemedicine where the sender stores the information databases and sends it to the receiver at a convenient point of time, and the receiver can review the data according to his convenience.
(iii) Remote Monitoring type of telemedicine, also known as self-monitoring or self-testing. Remote monitoring uses a range of technological devices to monitor the health and clinical signs of a patient remotely.
These types of services can be between a patient and a healthcare provider and even between two or more healthcare providers.
The Covid-19 Affect
As the Covid-19 pandemic began, most government and private hospitals shut down or reduced non-emergency medical services. This was done to limit secondary transmission of the virus within the confines of these hospitals.
India, like many other countries throughout the world, responded with telemedicine and other digital health innovations. Several healthcare establishments began offering telemedicine services within a week of the closure of hospital outpatient departments. Large private hospitals and independent practitioners were among the providers.
Before the pandemic, telehealth services were limited due to obstacles like reimbursements (not covered under insurance), low demand, and low software development keeping their supply restricted. But the pandemic forced this industry to keep up with the demand by building and maintaining IT infrastructure and hiring a larger number of health professionals.
As the government set up new guidelines to make telehealth services a legal practice in India. Many players entered the Indian Market to lead this new phase in the healthcare industry. These include 1mg, Practo, Medlife, Lybrate, Portea Medica, etc. These organisations range from startups to older companies that have become adept in their orbit of services. The foremost companies are focusing on educating the people about health and other services and on improving public health and healthcare via telecommunications technologies.
Challenges of telemedicine in India
As the telehealth industry is growing with the number of benefits it offers, there are some challenges that are important to consider.
Building an effective telehealth program takes time and costs money as it involves developing the best technology while also training practitioners and medical staff.
Care continuity suffers when patients use on-demand telemedicine services that connect them with a random healthcare provider. Because a patient’s primary care provider may not have access to records from those other visits, they may have an incomplete history. The risk of a doctor not knowing a patient’s history or having notes about care routines increases when service providers change.
Moreover, the guidelines issued by the government lack clarity and the healthcare policies and privacy regulations struggle to keep up with this fast-growing industry.
In a post-pandemic world, the opportunities to build on incredible achievements are limitless. Telemedicine is expected to incorporate even more diagnoses, treatments, and services in the future, in addition to treating chronic diseases and preserving mental health.
To build a platform for dealing with difficulties that affect this sector on a worldwide scale, telehealth firms will need to rely on a few substantial commitments or an agile strategy, in addition to a healthy mix of talent. Scalable solutions will be crucial in accelerating digital transformation.
Thousands of patients have benefited from telehealth, which has helped alleviate overcrowding in emergency rooms while also maximising the time and workload of medical personnel.
The adoption of consumer facing telehealth facilities has led to transitioning “patients” to “consumers” has led to the “consumerization of healthcare”.
With this growing hunger for advancements not only in treatments, but also for integrated care paths, patient management, provider efficiency, data portability, security and privacy I believe that Telehealth will no longer exist in 2050, It will just be health. The lines between remote treatment and in-facility treatment will become so blurred that any distinction will become vestigial. Quoting the CEO of the American Telemedicine Association “It’s a no-brainer that healthcare should be just as convenient, accessible and safe as online banking” that captures the vision for integrated telehealth in the future.
1.Council Post: How Covid-19 Reshaped The Telemedicine Market
2. Top Telemedicine Companies in India
3. The Evolution of Telehealth: Where Have We Been and … – NCBI Bookshelf
4. Health Insurance: Telemedicine, online consultations to be covered amid COVID-19
5. Telehealth – Innovations & Technology Trends
6. Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
7. Telemedicine in India: History & Progress
8. Telehealth and the levers that will move the healthcare industry – CIO