How rural India is embracing telemedicine in the time of coronavirus
The healthcare sector in India has shown great interest in the way the internet impacts the use of healthcare services - not just the idea but also the extent to which it can be accessed.
Telemedicine, to be specific, has gained a great deal of attention ever since the country has been hit by the novel coronavirus.
In times like this, when social distancing is a necessity than a guideline to keep the virus from spreading, both medical practitioners and patients need a medium to connect.
Hence, the need for tele-consultation apps in the Indian market is now more than ever.
Is India ready for telemedicine?
There is huge inequality in healthcare distribution in our country. About 75 percent of India’s population that lives in rural villages need doctors who are based out of metropolitan cities and about 620 million rural Indians need access to basic healthcare facilities.
The Indian government spends about 0.9 percent on healthcare, and only a part of it is spent on providing healthcare facilities in remote areas; and lack of rural health infrastructure makes it difficult for doctors to help patients.
Additionally, the diversified essential services and medical care components in various parts of the country is an area of concern. The doctor-patient ratio in India is one per 1,457 Indian citizens; while in rural areas alone, the ratio is as low as one doctor per 25,000 citizens.
Since the biggest challenge for rural India is access to quality healthcare, telemedicine might just be the answer we are looking for.
Telemedicine provides fast exchange of patient information, symptomatic and remedial measures, private consultations, and therapeutic services among healthcare providers, patients, planners, and the doctors.
It helps in reducing the travelling time and cost for the patients, streamlining assets, upgrading diagnosis, tackling emergencies, and speculating critical cases at early stages.
According to NITI Aayog, India has officially recognised the need for telemedicine. The guidelines suggested by the policy think tank have legitimised the act of remote consultations via telemedicine with the help of medical specialists, who have practical knowledge for the remote diagnosis and prescriptions.
This has made way for a broader allocation of telemedicine services during the current crisis and for several more pandemics the world is yet to witness.
How can telemedicine help?
In the recent years, community healthcare providers have become the first-line responders of preventive and essential healthcare for the rural population, where telemedicine can become a fundamental part of reaching out and providing healthcare facilities.
They offer essential services such as checking blood pressure, running tests for intestinal sickness, blood glucose levels, and hemoglobin, and administering over-the-counter medicines for fever and aches.
Since these healthcare providers are typically qualified attendants or experts of alternative medicine, with experience in community healthcare, they cannot recommend or change the medical treatment or give transfusions without the supervision of an expert.
With the help of teleconsultations, the same first responders can help patients with prescriptions for diabetes, hypertension, among several other specialised treatments over video consultations with the specialist in the closest distance.
Future of telemedicine in India
There is a noteworthy increase in patient volume since the novel coronavirus outbreak has hit the nation. Hence, a number of patients and doctors are choosing telemedicine for following private practices, ease of booking online appointments, online medical prescriptions, monthly reminders to refill, and even blood testing at the comfort of their homes.
For medical professionals, this is an exciting opportunity to offer teleconsulting to their existing and new patients.
Telemedicine can expand the reach, yet it cannot replace a solid healthcare framework, which is subject to skillful doctors and suppliers.
In a post-COVID-19 scenario, public healthcare providers need to recognise the importance of universal health coverage. It cannot be built in a day but can only be created with an investment in time and money.
Issues like access, value, and quality in Indian healthcare can be improved through telemedicine. But to make it possible, there must be a devoted framework, preparing specialists and pooling a greater amount of them, emphasis on law-abiding policies, and assessment of these projects from time-to-time.
Edited by Megha Reddy
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)