As we are currently dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare has taken a hit as many premier institutes have been designated as COVID-19 specific hospitals. Owing to this fact, patients suffering from chronic ailments like diabetes and hypertension have missed their regular check-ups with their treating physicians. For a long time, telemedicine has been in a grey area in our country. The recent Telemedicine guidelines, published by the Board of Governors in supersession of The Medical Council of India has lifted many curtains and has legalized telemedicine subjected to adherence of certain guidelines and SOP's for the medical practitioners. It has already been a part of integrated healthcare delivery in many countries and has also been widely used as the first responder by the western counterparts.
WHAT IS TELEMEDICINE AND WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS?
According to World Health Organisation(WHO), "The delivery of health-care services where distance is a critical factor, by all health-care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and the continuing health-care workers, with the aim of advancing of the health of individuals and communities". Some of the benefits are easy accessibility, timely intervention, guiding the patient to the right healthcare facility in case of any emergency, no travel costs.
Patients can also avail of routine health monitoring thus reducing the burden on secondary hospitals. Telemedicine can ensure patients' safety by getting treated at the comfort of his home without even venturing out. Mainstreaming telemedicine in the health system will minimize inequity and barriers to access quality healthcare. By legalizing telemedicine, it will continue to grow and be adopted by more healthcare professionals and patients in a wide variety of forms like call, app, mail, WhatsApp, etc. It is the need of the hour and the government should designate helpline numbers in which doctors from every specialty should be designated as well as clinical psychologists and other healthcare workers. It can also serve as a first responder and help in first aid and referral of emergencies. Integrating technology in healthcare is the need of the hour, it is the way forward. Minor ailments can be managed on call. Let us hope that telemedicine will be embraced by patients also even after the pandemic is over. This will revolutionize the healthcare sector, yet can not replace a physical consultation.