Coronavirus: MCI BoG issues guidelines, advises telemedicine practice to prevent transmission of infectious diseases

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, a board vested with the powers of the Medical Council of India on Wednesday advised medical practitioners to use telemedicine while providing healthcare.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, a board vested with the powers of the Medical Council of India on Wednesday advised medical practitioners to use telemedicine while providing healthcare, saying it can prevent transmission of infectious diseases and reduce the risks to both healthcare workers and patients.

The Board of Governors (BoG) issued guidelines, outlining that telemedicine provides safety of patients, as well as health workers safety, especially in situations where there is a risk of contagious infections and it can be conducted without exposing the staff to viruses or infections in the times of such outbreaks.

The BoG has taken over the powers and functions of the MCI, pending passage of the National Medical Commission Bill that seeks to replace the council with a freshly constituted regulatory body.

There are a number of technologies that can be used in telemedicine, which can help patients adhere better to their medication regimens and manage their diseases better, the BoG said in its telemedicine guidelines.

"Disasters and pandemics pose unique challenges in providing healthcare. Though telemedicine will not solve them all, it is well suited for scenarios in which medical practitioners can evaluate and manage patients. Telemedicine practice can prevent the transmission of infectious diseases reducing the risks to both health care workers and patients. Unnecessary and avoidable exposure of people involved in the delivery of healthcare can be avoided using telemedicine and patients can be screened remotely," it said.

"It can provide rapid access to medical practitioners who may not be immediately available in person. Additionally, it makes available extra working hands to provide physical care at the respective health institutions. Thus, health systems that are invested in telemedicine are well-positioned to ensure that patients with COVID-19 kind of issues receive the care they need," it said.

The Telemedicine Practice Guidelines stated that in India, providing in-person healthcare is challenging, particularly given the large geographical distances and limited resources.

One of the major advantages of telemedicine can be for saving of cost and effort, especially of rural patients, as they need not travel long distances for obtaining consultation and treatment, the BoG said.

In this type of scenario, telemedicine can provide an optimal solution for not just providing timely and faster access. It would also reduce the financial costs associated with travel. It also reduces the inconvenience/impact to family and caregivers and social factors, the guidelines said.

Telemedicine can play a particularly important role in cases where there is no need for the patient to physically see the registered medical practitioner (or other medical professional), for example for regular, routine check-ups or continuous monitoring, the board said, adding telemedicine can reduce the burden on the secondary hospitals.

With telemedicine, there is a higher likelihood of maintenance of records and documentation hence minimalises the likelihood of missing out advice from the doctor other healthcare staff, it said.

(Edited by Suman Singh)


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