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The current COVID-19 pandemic is all set to redefine healthcare as we know it. Because of the current lockdown and social distancing protocols, most patients are keeping away from hospitals if they can. Doctors are also advising their patients over the phone or via video call. The healing touch of doctors that have comforted patients since ancient times may soon translate to the healing voice of doctors as more and more people take to tele-consultation for minor and major health issues. In India today, many private hospitals offer this service.
Telemedicine has been growing steadily and silently in recent years. But many patients had not adopted it because they were more comfortable having a face-to-face consultation. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is no longer possible right now and telemedicine offers a way out. But with advances made in digital infrastructure, this may become a part of our life even after the current crisis is over. Many apps today make traditional doctor's equipment, like the stethoscope, redundant. Going by these trends, we may be progressing towards a future where a visit to the hospital becomes a rare occurrence even if there is no pandemic ravaging the world.
Dr Vishal Sehgal, Medical Director, Portea Medical, says that telemedicine was always a grey area in India. But the scene changed with the coming of the current pandemic. "Even before lockdown, many people were avoiding OPDs out of fear of catching the COVID-19 virus. But after the lockdown was announced, all hospitals suspended OPD operations and elective surgical procedures. So, there was a vacuum that needed to be filled. Who will take care of all these patients and where will they go for consultation? This is where telemedicine comes in,"says Dr. Sehgal.
According to Dr Sehgal, "Telemedicine can help patients with respiratory symptoms. Many patients with cough and cold may be worried that they have got the virus that causes COVID-19. So a consultation over the phone can put them at ease." It is also useful for patients with chronic illnesses who have to go in for repeat follow-up consultations. Moreover, there are many patients with non-emergency ailments like lower back pain, gastrointestinal issues, other illnesses and diseases that are not fatal or do not require emergency treatment. But, at the same time, they do need a doctor's advice. Telemedicine can help such people deal with their issues," he adds.
Dr Sehgal says that you need to be careful while choosing a credible platform. "Due to the demand, today, it is possible that many such platforms will come up. But you need to do your research. Look at things like how long the platform has been in existence and for how many years it has been in the healthcare industry. Check the credentials of the doctors associated with the platform," says Dr. Sehgal. He adds that it will make more sense to go for one that provided end-to-end solutions and offers a more holistic approach to healthcare.