In the Coronavirus Pandemic which has unleashed mayhem worldwide including India, authorities of various countries are trying their best to explore ways to combat the crisis. Government, private bodies, and healthcare fraternity all seem to be concerned, undertaking several measures to keep people safe. Technology has always proved to be game changer and savior. Telemedicine is one of the technologies which has suddenly shot to fame. With the latest guidelines released by the government, hospitals are all set to leverage it in the best possible manner. It has many advantages as it doesn’t require patients to visit hospitals physically which indirectly saves crucial time and the medium is cost effective as well. But the technology has its share of challenges too. In a webinar panel discussion moderated by Ravi Gupta, CEO & Editor in Chief, Elets Technomedia, eminent healthcare experts share viewpoints on the topic.
Dr Pankaj Gupta, Head Digital Health, Access Health International, said: “There are two things which have basically cropped up amidst COVID-19—One is in terms of exposure of infection to physicians and staff that needs to be avoided and other is shortage of medical staff in this kind of pandemic situation. Both the things can be addressed easily using tele medicine platform.”
“New guidelines help you deliver the care with physicians at one side and patient at other. During early symptoms or at quarantined stage, patients can be easily managed using telemedicine platform. If patients have to be admitted and second opinion is required, frontline health workers are there and physician is at remote location, still the model works. Telemedicine is useful as India lacks beds, doctors and other staff,” he further said.
Another panelist Prem Sharma, CEO, DaytoDay Health said: “COVID-19 is constantly changing process. It is evolving very very fast, whether the information which is coming up, new treatment people are looking for and so on. In this wake, for the first time, we need tele health digital solutions which can adopt on hourly basis. We are not in static kind of environment, whether it is patient education or their tracking, and all other aspects we need to evolve fast. Our patience is burning out. We need solutions which could handhold patients on daily basis.”
“We have to manage patients holistically. Mental issues are also coming up due to patients being kept in isolation. Be Constant engagement and alignment with doctors is another important area which needs focus. We have been working with governments across the world to help them manage people in this critical situation,” he said.
Dr Ganapathy Krishnan, Director, Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation said: “As a medical doctor, I confine myself to the relevance of tele health in COVID-19 situation. We are concentrating only on the Coronavirus as it is a major crisis affecting millions of people worldwide. We also need to cater non-Corona patients as it is extremely difficult to a person to go to the hospital physically in this situation. This is where telemedicine can play a vital role. Several nurses and doctors have been isolated in different parts of country. Unfortunately 100s of doctors have been isolated which will have major repercussion on the way healthcare is delivered.”
“A doctor may be isolated or quarantined, but he would be physically and mentally alert and can attend 100-200 patients per day through tele consultation. Today with simple algorithm through device, tele triage can be done where simple answers can be made available to patients. One can identify group which could be a suspect of CVID-19. With technology now available in India, a very detailed clinical examination can be done remotely. Today we have thermal sensor, oxygen sensor, and digital stethoscope where doctor can simply put stethoscope on the heart of own and measure things of patients,” he further added.
Naresh Yallapragada, CIO, KIMS Hospital, opined: “I would categorize tele health segment into two—Those who are Corona positive and others who are not. It’s not telemedicine is something new which is being leveraged now. It is just because the pandemic it suddenly becomes relevant. As a technology, telemedicine is seen as a solution to problems amidst COVOD-19. People can consult doctors if they are symptomatic to Coronavirus. Apart from that, the technology can also be used by hospitals to maintain a connect with patients. People who visit hospitals for OPD, follow ups like in case of post-surgical visit, the tool proves to be very beneficial. There are so many use cases. Because of the technology, patients can avail day to day care easily. They need not to visit hospitals very frequently.”
Chaitanya Shravanth, CDO, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, said: “Telemedicine is becoming very good filter. It is helpful for doctors to identify patients who needs video consultation and other who need to visit hospitals. It reduces risk for both sides of stakeholders—doctors and patients. In coming years, this will become very acceptable form of consultation. At the same time video consultation doesn’t solve all issues as it requires at time physical visit.”
Viloo Williams, CIO & Head Digital, Transformation, said “Hospitals have been exploring the telemedicine from quite some time. It’s a myth in today’s time that patient needs touch and feel from doctor. A COVID-19 patient can easily seek advice of physicians through tele consultation. They can easily guide them what to do. It helps patients save crucial time, helps them in social distancing, no need to travel. For hospital staff too, the technology proves helpful as they get protected from infected patients. The tool is boon for those who are not infected from Coronavirus and suffering from simple cold and fever. They can seek advice on phone calls. For post-surgery follow ups too, the medium is helpful. The technology has its own set of challenges. Networking and connectivity is one of the challenges which both patient and doctor should know before embarking on the journey of tele consultation.”
Ekta Modi, COO, Parul Sevashram Hospital, Gujarat, said “There is an old adage that necessity is mother of invention. But taking the current situation in consideration, it is called as necessity is mother of initiative. Many of hospitals which were not using telemedicine, have initiated this to reach to their patients. It minimizes the exposure to the viral transmission, and optimizing care at the same time. Infection control in the hospital, a very important part is taken care by the technology. It’s powerful reminder that human care and technology are intersecting each other at a greater speed. Many patients are coming up to seek medical help. It reduces their time to visit hospitals. In addition, they can see doctors on the screen, ask many things as they can with comfort of sitting at home. It is win-win situation for both patient and hospitals.”
Dr Aloke Mullick, Group CEO, Omni Hospitals said : “Telemedicine has suddenly becomes fashionable. Earlier we tried to push it on the doctor and they were unwilling to use the technology. But due to recent Corona crisis, tele medicine has come forward as a potent tool. We need to take care of non COVID patients as well. Infection is still there in the society. These patients who has had no care in last one month, they need to triage through telemedicine. 50 percent can be treated through telemedicine. Most hospitals are setting up platform so that telemedicine can be used for non COVID patients as lockdown starts getting over.”