The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a disaster that left no part of the world untouched. The COVID-19 outbreak has altered the course of human history in more ways than we realize. On the one hand, the deadly outbreak shattered economies worldwide and pushed millions into the realm of poverty; on the other, it has also led us to adapt quickly and pushed us forward towards the optimal utilization of the technology. It wouldn’t have been possible at such a pace without such a catastrophe.
From education to business ventures, to entertainment most sectors have shifted their operations online. But there is one industry that perhaps has benefitted the most from the COVID -19 outbreak is Telemedicine.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is the practice of using telecommunications technologies to provide care and health services over long distances. It enables patients who require medicinal treatment to communicate with their doctors from the convenience of their own homes via cellphones, tablets, and computers.
Telemedicine is the application of the internet and telecommunication networks to provide healthcare to patients who are physically distanced from doctors. A radiologist, for example, might study and interpret imaging results for a patient in a faraway county whose hospital currently lacks a radiologist. For a non-life-threatening condition, a physician may provide an urgent-care consultation through video.
Also Read: Will AI Prove to be a Boon in Medicine?
Telemedicine in times of COVID-19
During the COVID-19 crisis, telemedicine has become a critical component of healthcare. With nearly 22 crores confirmed cases worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc. Because of the global lockdowns, doctors have been pushed to deliver remote healthcare in order to fulfill the social distancing restrictions; the healthcare industry has been at the epicenter of this unique global pandemic dilemma. While the Telemedicine equipment market was already booming, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the growth of remote healthcare.
Because of the pandemic's unpredictability, healthcare providers consider incorporating telemedicine technologies into their daily medical practices. It has evolved from a secondary therapeutic option to a critical tool for patients and healthcare practitioners. Telemedicine services are also covered by insurance companies and government healthcare programs.
Telemedicine has shown to be the safest interacting mode between patients, both infected and uninfected, and professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic due to severe social separation and a lack of viable remedies.
Telemedicine services and acted as virtual bridges connecting the patience in need of professional help.
The business model behind Telemedicine
A telemedicine service collaborates with doctors who work in major cities; these doctors may work at prestigious hospitals like Medanta, Fortis, or Artemis.
Once a doctor has been approved, he or she can consult with patients who visit e-clinics on a regular basis. The doctor communicates with patients via a computer interface, which allows him to see, speak, and listen to them. Patients can be served as well as or better than they can be treated in traditional clinics because the physician can perform all that can be done in a face-to-face OPD.
Because doctors can analyze a huge number of patients in a short amount of time and from a distance, the business model works.
The public's opinion of such clinics is important to the viability of the business model. The public has embraced e-clinics in most areas where they have been implemented. Residents of small towns and cities consider such clinics as the preferable location for medical care, rather than as a novelty.
Another reason e-clinics are so inexpensive is that they can be set up in a matter of minutes. It only takes a few days to set up an e-clinic. This is because such clinics do not require the same physical infrastructure as regular clinics. Every service supplied by the e-clinic is at the physicians' disposal. As a result, an e-sole clinic's input costs are the building, requisite infrastructure, and facilitator.
Telemedicine can also aid in bridging the healthcare gap that exists in India between people who live in small towns, cities, and villages and those who live in urban areas. Many individuals in rural India, for example, do not know how to utilize their smartphones completely.
As a result, people can't use apps that provide remote healthcare. This digital divide is bridged via telemedicine. Patients who visit a brick-and-mortar telemedicine clinic benefit from the doctor's examination and the remote healthcare infrastructure available online.
E-clinics have demonstrated their effectiveness since their inception. Patients treated in e-clinics recover faster than patients treated by doctors in a nearby area. Furthermore, e-clinics are significantly less expensive than traditional clinics. An OPD at an e-clinic is almost half the price of an OPD at a traditional clinic.
Telemedicine is bridging the healthcare gap all throughout the world, especially in rural areas. When people in India's small towns and cities become ill, they go to telemedicine clinics for the first time to be examined by the world's greatest doctors.
Challenges And Growing Pains for telemedicine
Lack of awareness and basic infrastructure
In order for telemedicine to be an effective technique of treating patients, rural residents must have access to smartphones as well as the functional literacy required to operate the smartphone independently to initiate teleconsultation.
The absence of adequate telecom infrastructure could also be a major impediment in this regard, as telemedicine necessitates improved networks and quicker internet speeds, which can be considerable difficulty in and of it.
While the Indian government recently announced telemedicine practice guidelines, the regulations that would enable widespread use of telemedicine are still being developed. Prior to the release of the new standards, there was no legislation governing the practice of telemedicine, which created ambiguity for doctors and medical professionals while casting doubt on the entire process.
Tutelage for Professionals
It is also critical that clinical professionals receive sufficient training to implement new technologies. With the technological improvements in the telehealth business, adequate orientation and understanding of the use of digital health tools is necessary and should be included in the medical professional training curriculum.
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