Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, medical systems and healthcare providers were faced with unforeseen challenges as they adjusted to remote working situations to function effectively amid social distancing and self-isolating norms.
Telemedicine helps healthcare providers tend to patients remotely—that is, diagnose, monitor, treat, consult and advise—using telecommunications technology, when both parties are not physically present together. Using modern technology and tools, including video-conferencing, telemedicine has allowed for efficient distribution of healthcare services via electronic information and telecommunication.
There was an almost overnight shift to telemedicine services during the pandemic and the industry has grown with a CAGR of over 37 percent this year, and has an expected market value of over 170 billion by 2026.
Crisis always presents opportunities for innovation and reinvention. Telemedicine too has a huge opportunity for patient care to reimagine itself. It is time to step up to the challenge.
Advantages of Video-led Telemedicine
Video-conferencing is rapidly advancing into an integral part of our communication processes for a variety of businesses and industries, including healthcare. It has made healthcare facilities and services more accessible, especially in rural areas. Rural India’s doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 1:2000, which is half the number that the WHO recommends. According to an Economic Times report, telemedicine can help doctors attend to as many as twice the number of patients per day, effectively bridging the doctor-patient gap.
Video-led telemedicine services offer several measurable benefits in terms of administrative, educational and patient-care delivery operations, such as faster accessibility especially in rural areas, and timely guidance in the short and long term.
Unlike traditional healthcare facilities, patients and clinicians can now connect at the click of a button or tap on the screen. Appointments can be fixed digitally within seconds, without delays due to long queues or other anomalies that can happen at a physical clinic. This ensures speedy service delivery and access to services at any instant.Our traditional ways of availing healthcare assistance have been redefined with video-led telemedicine access. Neither do patients have to travel from home or work to the doctor’s facility nor do doctors need to go to the patient’s location. The absence of these imperatives has saved us a lot of otherwise wasted time and costs.
Travelling while being sick is not just uncomfortable for patients but also for those around them, if the illness is contagious. Doctors take up huge risks in such a scenario by visiting patients or tending to them physically. The Covid-19 crisis aggravated this situation, with hospitals not being able to cater to a vast majority of other patients physically. If not for telemedicine, this chunk of the population with minor to major health concerns could have been largely left out of the purview of social justice.
- Breaks Down Geographical Barriers
One of the prime advantages of video-led telemedicine is that it allows patients to access medical facilities irrespective of their location, ensuring quality and developing trust. Patients from rural areas can access services based in any city of their choice. People from one country can contact specialists in another without the need to travel at all. They can save all these unnecessary costs for future treatments and medicines instead.
“It took a pandemic to realize the potential of telemedicine and e-pharmacies as a technological revolution in the healthcare space. After years of being under a regulatory quagmire because of lobbying by brick-and-mortar pharmacies, the segment witnessed a massive shift as India went into a lockdown in March to curb the spread of Covid-19. There was a radical change on four fronts that prompted the adoption of these platforms.” said Prashant Tandon, 1MG Founder and Chief Executive Officer.
As part of a new update, the 1MG app has also enabled online doctor consultations. It has been downloaded more than 10 million times on Google Play Store and has a 4.4 rating.
- Effective and Reliable Communication
Healthcare services need to be dispensed quickly, effectively and reliably, and video-led telemedicine can ensure all of these. Through video-conferencing and messaging platforms integrated with security measures by solution providers, hospitals are creating interfaces to contact their patients timely, without hampering the privacy and data of both the patient and the healthcare provider. The best part is that these solution providing platforms are offering low-cost yet effective software technology for the largest of hospitals and the smallest of clinics, to afford and use regularly.
- Ensures Higher Productivity and Efficiency
Given the reduced travel needs and the time saved daily, healthcare providers can serve more patients. Telemedicine allows healthcare facilities to schedule consultations one after another, without losing any time, unlike traditional face-to-face contact.
“People were wary of visiting hospital setups and health clinics, prompting doctors and hospitals to adopt telemedicine as it was safer for them and their patients. Besides, health regulators realized the importance of these services during a pandemic. They recognized e-pharmacies as an essential service provider during the lockdown. Telemedicine practice guidelines were also published,” added Tandon.
The ready availability, frequent and quick communications and more comfort offered to patients help improve service quality. With patient no-shows and cancellations seeing a reduction, you can be sure of increased revenues and sustained competitive advantage. Increased productivity and efficiency are great for patient retention in the short and long term. As many as three quarters of all patients who received telemedicine consultation did not require a further physical check-up.
“Telehealth has been the need of the hour to address patients’ issues. As a Video KYC and Video interaction platform, Kwik has seen a 50x surge in demand from healthcare clients to deploy teleconsultation in their services. Considering the seriousness of connecting patients with experts, we need to ensure that advice providers are verified and trustworthy. This is when video assessment comes into the picture such that it lets patients trust the service providers and proceed with the prescriptions,” affirms Monish Salot from Kwik– an AI based Video KYC and Interaction provider platform.
The advantages of remote telehealth through video-led engagement are truly the present and future of healthcare globally. However, healthcare facilities must be wary of how secure and reliable their platform is, which they can ensure through trusted solution providers to maintain user security, privacy and absence of frauds and breaches.
Beenum Yadav is Professor, College of Journalism & Mass Communication, Swami Vivekanand Subharti University.
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly)