What is teleconsultation? To comprehend this in the current context, let us consider when mobiles were not yet part of our daily lives. For most mild illnesses, we used to check with our parents, uncles, aunts, or that one doctor in the family who everyone had about what to do. Visiting a doctor would almost always be the last option for qualified treatment when things people did not get the expected relief or their health worsened. However, things changed drastically in many ways due to the high accessibility to healthcare, at least in urban India. We got used to visiting doctors/clinics/hospitals for even the mildest of issues.
Then, Covid-19 happened, and people fell back to olden ways, rather forcibly! At a time when stepping out to a hospital was ill-advised unless you were too sick, people discovered the power of teleconsultation again, this time aided by technology. Of course, many healthcare providers also requested people to visit hospitals only if necessary to avoid the strain on the system and the healthcare workers. And we complied. More importantly, that phase helped build a trust factor in teleconsultation. Also, there are now robust regulations around telemedicine to ensure the rights and privacy of patients.
Perhaps the existence of an online Indian government teleconsultation service helps drive home the importance of teleconsultation in a country like India, where we still have remote places where healthcare accessibility is an issue. A study conducted two years back found that only 2% of competent doctors practice in rural areas. The esanjeevani OPD service is free, making it an accessible healthcare service for the underprivileged. And it’s not only the government, but agencies like the ISRO collaborate many of India’s corporate hospitals to enable them to provide telemedicine and treatment facilities.
Thankfully, the Covid phase is past us. But we are mostly back to visiting hospitals, aren’t we? Also, sometimes when we hear that someone might have lived, if only, they visited a hospital in time, it does make decision-making a bit dicey. When can we rely on teleconsultations? Here is a rundown that can help you out.
- Mobility issues
If you have mobility issues, you should limit visiting the hospitals only for emergencies. The best way to manage your medical needs is to find a good General Physician (GP) who agrees to teleconsultation. Discuss all your health conditions with this person, and concur on a periodicity for a possible home/hospital visit on a need basis. Ideally, an in-person consultation is advisable once in six months. If you are bedridden, then a trained caretaker or nurse can tele consult on your behalf with your consent. It is, therefore, essential to ensure both the GP and the caretaker have verified credentials. You could instead choose to go through a care agency or community like Samarth for assured safety and peace of mind.
- Accessibility issues
Possibly, you are in a remote area, like your native, and had some health issues for which you do not want to visit local doctors or hospitals. Also, many seniors visiting their children in foreign countries prefer to take teleconsultation with their regular doctors for common issues. There are two reasons for this. One, it is not easy to get appointments in these countries. Secondly, there is a trust and comfort factor involved. If you are in India in some remote place, you could easily procure the medicines after a teleconsultation. However, if you are in a different country, then that is not possible. Hence, people going abroad often do an in-person consultation and carry some common prescription medicines for most non-serious issues. These are useful after a teleconsultation.
The converse is also true. If people shift to different cities and want to continue referring to their doctor from their hometown, they can continue to tele consult. You may also have a doctor in your family in a different city or state whom you consult. Teleconsultation doctors can prescribe antibiotics, lab or other diagnostic tests based on their teleconsultation to further the treatment. They can refer you for in-person consultation based on their judgement.
- Mental health issues
Geriatric psychiatry is one field of medicine gaining popularity in India. There are multiple reasons for this. The most significant is that mental health is still a taboo topic in India. People do not like seen visiting mental health hospitals or psychiatrists. It becomes a challenge to give explanations to people. However, as many of us have seen, post-Covid, mental health has been as challenging as physical health. If you feel the need to consult a mental health professional in the privacy of your home, then teleconsultation is a probable solution. Many counsellors or therapists practice teleconsultation to aid frank conversations with people from the comfort of their homes.
- Periodic consultations
If you are otherwise healthy and conduct periodic health check-ups as a safety measure, teleconsultation is a better option. You could do required blood tests (home pick-ups if needed) and consult the doctor online for further advice. Even if you have diabetes or hypertension and only need to consult the doctor to see if your prescription needs any dosage change, teleconsultation is convenient and safe. The treatment of chronic diseases in India is undergoing a silent revolution through teleconsultation because of improved efficiency, affordability, and accessibility.
- To avoid seasonal diseases
In India, with changing seasons, we have many contagious diseases. For seniors with low immunity, going to hospitals during this time for regular check-ups can be risky. They may contract some fever, flu, etc., that can cause unnecessary trouble. Teleconsultation helps avoid contact with other patients to stay safe. We saw how it worked well during the Covid. Even other infectious diseases can harm to seniors, if the immunity is weak. Hence, teleconsultation is suitable to avoid hospital visits.