Telemedicine : A revolutionary change in the healthcare system
By- Dr. Krittika Bhatia
House Medical Officer Dept of Cardiology, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai
Barriers in accessibility of healthcare facilities 1
India is among the developing countries which is populated with an estimate of 138 crore people as per the census 2021 where combating poverty and the rate of literacy is still an issue unresolved. Due to this fact and equitable distribution and access to healthcare has proven to be a major goal in public health management time and again. Adding to this is the recent trend of concentration of healthcare facilities to the cities and towns (including 75% of the population of doctors), away from rural India, where 68.84% of the national population live .
The current functioning of healthcare system is such that the Out Patient Department (OPD) is accessible for limited hours in the nursing homes and hospital settings has led to the increase in the number of avoidable visits to the Emergency Department or ER for symptoms like headache, common cold, cough, sore throat and many more that do not need critical or urgent care.
Visiting the government and private clinics has also been cumbersome for the general population due to the long waiting hours and follow ups.
Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical healthcare, patient and professional health-related education and training, public health and health administration .
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Telemedicine as, “The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.” 
Telemedicine in India
ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) made a modest beginning in telemedicine in India with a Telemedicine Pilot Project in 2001, linking Chennai’s Apollo Hospital with the Apollo Rural Hospital at Aragonda village in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh .
Although it all began in 2001, two decades later especially amidst the pandemic all the members of the healthcare system have realized the power of recent advances in technology and the growing force of telemedicine.
This tool has not only helped people have access to consultation with the physician of their preference at the comfort of being at home or workplace but has also made it a cost effective approach in healthcare for minor ailments and symptoms.
The use of telemedicine has reduced the number of avoidable visits to the ER taking of the burden from the doctors practicing this specialty in particular.
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Benefits of Telemedicine
As per WHO, Telemedicine holds great potential for reducing the variability of diagnoses as well as improving clinical management and delivery of health care services worldwide by enhancing access, quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
In particular, telemedicine can aid communities traditionally underserved – those in remote or rural areas with few health services and staff – because it overcomes distance and time barriers between health-care providers and patients. Further, evidence points to important socioeconomic benefits to patients, families, health practitioners and the health system, including enhanced patient-provider communication and educational opportunities.
Barriers in Telemedicine
Legal considerations are a major obstacle to telemedicine uptake. These include an absence of an international legal framework to allow health professionals to deliver services in different jurisdictions and countries; a lack of policies that govern patient privacy and confidentiality vis -à-vis data transfer, storage, and sharing between health professionals and jurisdictions; health professional authentication, in particular in e-mail applications; and the risk of medical liability for the health professionals offering telemedicine services.
Another drawback in India particularly is that the lower socio-economic strata for which we as members of medical fraternity want to make the healthcare via telemedicine more accessible lack that kind of infrastructure and gadgets needed to avail such services. This area of concern needs to be paid more attention to and improved upon for the rural population to also have access to better treatment modalities.
How important it is to stay technologically savvy and updated with recent advances??
In this era of digitalization healthcare services are no longer rendered via word of mouth for the physician but the available data on various platforms that shows the qualifications, years of experience and most importantly ratings and reviews given to the physician by the general population.
Though telemedicine has been a breakthrough, It has made it mandatory for the members of the medical fraternity to undergo rigorous training with regards to be able to use the new technology as well as stay updated with recent advances and methods of treatment for the generation of people who are well aware of information available on various platforms using the internet.
It is not only important to be a good clinician but also a good communicator.
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“The chapter you are learning today, is going to save someone’s life tomorrow.” Pay Attention !
- Barriers in accessibility of Healthcare facilities
- Censusindia.gov.in. (2012). CENSUS OF INDIA. [online] GOI. [cited 2018 Dec 2]. Available from: http://censusindia.gov.in/2011-prov-results/paper2/data_files/india/Rural_Urban_2011.pdf .
- Allen A, Allen D. Telemedicine programs: 2nd annual review reveals doubling of programs in a year. Telemedicine Today. 1995;3(1):10–4.
- ISRO Telemedicine Initiative [Internet]. Televital.com. [cited 2019 Feb 1]. Available from: http://www.televital.com/downloads/ISRO-Telemedicine-Initiative.pdf .
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