By the time the first quarter of year 2020 ended, about 200 countries across the world were in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. With thousands of deaths and number of cases spiralling up each day, the conventional healthcare systems are rapidly getting overwhelmed in most countries. There is a great deal of panic and most countries are under complete or partial lockdown to restrict movement of people from one location to another.
The current pandemic has been unlike any other calamity that the modern world has seen as far as its spread is concerned. As is peculiar about any global crisis of this magnitude, Covid-19 has made imperative for us to discover new healthcare options and services. There has to be integration of latest technologies enabling best possible care without risking human-to-human contagion.
We have already seen thousands of doctors and medical personnel fall ill after being exposed to the virus while treating infected people. In a country like India where the resources are already inadequate to provide medical care to the public, such risks further compound the problem.
It is in this context, that Telemedicine can prove to be a highly potent game-changer for the countries battling the Covid-19 infection. Since India is under lockdown and people are advised to home quarantine, telemedicine becomes even more useful. At a time when the out-patient departments and regular physicians’ clinics are either shut or too risky to visit, the option to consult a doctor via teleconferencing is an incredible option. In case one feels any discomfort, symptoms of illness or needs care for regular illnesses such as chronic diseases, Telemedicine can help get valuable advice regarding such problems. Alternatively, the hospitals get great support and are able to dedicatedly respond to the acute viral infection cases or life-threatening emergencies.
Further, the Telemedicine process is also well-suited to the various guidelines issued by WHO and local health authorities. For instance, the adoption of Telemedicine system proves to be helpful in protecting the healthcare service providers. They don’t need to physically examine the non-critical cases and can minimize the risk of exposure to any Covid-19 carrier patients who might be mildly symptomatic or completely devoid of any symptoms.
At a social level, this technology driven process can be highly beneficial for the high-risk categories such as diabetics, heart-patients, blood pressure patients or the elderly. They don’t need to visit a medical facility and risk contracting the Covid-19 infection by stepping out of their homes or visiting any high-risk locations. They can simply seek advice from within the safety of their homes through Telemedicine.
Not only this, but, Telemedicine can serve as a force-multiplier for the medical staff, enabling them to provide coverage to wider and far-flung areas as well. For instance, a doctor using the service can respond to a patient from a Himalayan state or a rural area or even from another country or region where professional doctors are not available locally. This can be a great boost for basic healthcare coverage in such areas. There are also other benefits of Telemedicine such as it is a less time consuming process compared to taking an appointment and visiting the doctor in person. It usually costs less than the in-person consultation. Even the service providers find it more relaxing and reassuring to treat more patients without repeatedly worrying about contamination, PPEs or the overflow of cases.
As a service, Telemedicine has been around for decades now, but, it is only in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak that it has come into focus. Now, there is wider acknowledgment of its benefits and a conscious effort in India as well as on the global platform to make Telemedicine a key part of the regular healthcare services. A number of new technology based healthcare providers have entered the market and the demand will grow exponentially with further advancements in digital diagnostic technologies.
Jothydev Kesavadev is an Indian Research diabetologist and the founder Chairman and Managing Director of Jothydev's Diabetes Research Centers in Trivandrum, Attingal and Kochi, Kerala.