The world has very few devices left to fight COVID-19 with, but technology remains one of them.
Whether it is the employ of state-of-the-art technology in the discovery of cures or vaccines, or traditional technology services to enhance health care and consultations, or even tools that keep people at home occupied/productive, it is clear that technology will serve humanity at one of its darkest moments.
Importance of Telemedicine:
As digital innovation revolutionizes the worlds of retail, travel, communication and many other industries, the delivery of health care has largely continued in traditional fashion.
Your devices and record-keeping have gone digital, but basic face-to-face interactions between provider and patient have not been much affected by technological changes.
In today’s flowering of virtual reality, assumptions about the nature of health care are being reconsidered from the ground up.
The pandemic has contributed, to the understanding of the myriad ways in which available technologies have not been put to better use, and presented people with multiple opportunities to harness these devices, techniques and methods to get on with life in the time of lockdown.
Among the primary uses is telemedicine, rendered inexorable now, by the temporary paralysis brought on by a freeze on movement.
Borderless, Continuous Care:
The use of virtual reality in medicine and healthcare has the power to enable patients to gain access to care in ways that were not possible in the past.
It’s been said that the average wait time for most doctor visits in the India is 45-50 days, with many parts of the world requiring up to months before patients can see physicians.
Virtual doctor visits could someday help ease the burden on medical resources, enabling medical professionals to see and treat patients remotely – cutting demand and need for in-office visits.
VR may also aid in bringing more healthcare to more people. In many areas of the world, and even in the India developed regions, geographical location prevents access to doctors, particularly those with specific specialties. Virtual office visits and other care could help fill the need.
Telemedicine benefits for India:
India only has one government doctor for every 1,139 people, whereas the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1:1,000.
The shortage of doctors is limiting face-to-face consultations among patients. Secondly, India also has a shortage of hospital beds, which makes hospitalization tricky.
Telemedicine will reduce the time of consultations and improve the quality of healthcare services in urban as well as rural areas, removing many of infrastructural challenges.
Telemedicine is a sector that bridges the healthcare gap between rural India and urban India.
In rural India, where the access to medical facilities, specialists opinion and advance healthcare amenities are limited, telemedicine acts as a healthcare provider bringing access to the specialist doctors to these areas.
Telemedicine adoption in India:
It was way back in 2000 that telemedicine was first employed in India, but the progress has been excruciatingly slow, until the pandemic. However, it does seem as if the medical community was only held back by the lack of legislation to enable tele consultations.
India is one of the top 10 countries in the telemedicine market in the world. The early adoption of a regulatory framework will help the segment grow rapidly.
India has seen considerable growth in the telemedicine sector but the growth was not rapid due to the lack of proper guidelines and regulations.
Though the Government is now starting to take a keen interest in developing telemedicine practices resulting in a slow but steady rise in its utilization in public health.
Telemedicine Society of India and government recent guidelines:
The Centre’s recent guidelines allowing for widespread use of telemedicine services came as a shot in the arm for telehealth crusaders in the country, among them the Telemedicine Society of India that has long been battling to use the technology in its complete arc to reach remote areas in India.
This move finds consonance with the rest of the world where several nations, also deeply impacted by the pandemic, have deployed telemedicine to reach people who have been unable to come to hospital, to reduce footfalls in hospitals, and to even provide medical and mental health counselling to countless people.
For no sooner was the policy announced, than hospitals and clinicians hurried to jump onto the bandwagon, advertising contact information for patients.
Huge and timely benefits of Telemedicine:
The advantages are peculiar in the current context, when putting distance between people is paramount, as tele consultations are not barred even when health care professionals and patients may have to be quarantined.
The advancement of telecommunication capabilities over the years has made the transmission of images and sound files (heart and lung sounds, coughs) faster and simpler.
Pilot telemedicine experiments in ophthalmology and psychiatry have proven to be of immense benefit to the communities. Telemedicine’s time is here, finally.
Telemedicine has advantages like: Reduced travel expenses of patients, Time saving, Easy access to specialized doctors, Decreases the load of missed appointments and cancellations for healthcare providers, Increasing patient load and revenue for hospitals, Improving follow up and health outcome, Increased reach to inaccessible areas.
Technology plays a crucial role in fight against COVID-19.
The pandemic has contributed to the understanding of various ways in which available technologies can be put to better use and presented people with multiple opportunities to harness these devices, techniques and methods to get on with life in the time of lockdown.
Among the primary uses is telemedicine that can help reach patients where access to medical care is difficult.
While unleashing the full potential of telemedicine to help people, experts and government agencies must be mindful of the possible inadequacies of the medium, and securing sensitive medical information; such cognisance should guide the use of the technology.