“There is a need for constant focus on quality and technological innovation”


How do we get the “right care to the right patient at the right time”? Statistics say that “delay in diagnosis of disease” is one of the major causes of deaths and prolonged stays in the hospital. Late diagnosis and delays in reporting to hospitals caused 75 per cent of fatalities. Also, mortality rates of cancer are high in India because more than half are diagnosed late, at locally advanced or metastatic stages.

Also, in a country like ours, where 64 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, access to advanced diagnosis and investigation is limited. The fact aggravates this that there is shortage of radiologist in India to report the imaging studies. It has been reported that a radiology report takes, on average, 21 days to be signed off from the time the images are obtained.

This delay has serious implications on patient care and might escalate treatment costs. In 2019, we had an estimated seven radiologists per 1,00,000 people, which is particularly low compared to the European average (13 radiologists per 1,00,000 people) and the US (11 per 1,00,000). It has been observed that the lack of availability of timely diagnostic services causes great problems for medical professionals during emergencies and night hours. Hence, there is a necessity to spread the utilisation of tele-radiology across the country to allow for early diagnosis & there is a need for constant focus on quality and technological innovation.

The growth of teleradiology during the pandemic

Teleradiology has seen a boom in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, but mitigating risks and challenges in this sector are key to optimise its potential to enhance patient care.

Today, teleradiology helps in better utilisation of workforce, provides good quality metrics, and accelerates the speed and accuracy of reporting. This health tech mode of radiology played even a bigger role during the pandemic by reducing the load on healthcare professionals and transferring and sharing the reports and scans globally among the healthcare community.

However, the diverse nature of medical data, from records to images and live teleconsultations, among others, that results in a wide range of volumes that must be managed. In addition, remote handling and transmission of medical data must face challenges such as medico-legal implications and data security, including the non-availability of proper teleradiology infrastructure.

I believe, “The biggest testament for teleradiology and its role was during the COVID pandemic. Like other health tech solutions during the period, teleradiology became a pragmatic delivery mode and saw significant adoption during the period. Radiology and teleradiology played a significant role in the early pandemic in limiting the spread of the infectious, considering the sparse availability and time taken for lab investigation. In a few places, radiology investigation was the only option available for screening, The sudden spurt increased the demand for teleradiology services by nearly 150 per cent, across the country, especially for CT chest and X-ray reporting. Many teleradiology providers emerged during the period and were able to deliver for this specific COVID needs. Artificial Intelligence greatly helped in realtime covid screening and reduced radiologist burnout resulting from this sudden spurt.”

How effective is teleradiology in India: Market status

As per Markets and Markets, “The teleradiology market is expected to reach $14.8 billion by 2026 from $7.3 billion in 2021, at a CAGR of 15.3 per cent during the forecast period of 2021 to 2026. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus globally, there is a sudden rise in the demand for teleradiology services. In 2021, the teleradiology market will reach $7.3 billion.”

The growth of this market is mainly attributed to the rising geriatric population and the subsequent increase in the prevalence of associated diseases; the increasing number of advanced imaging procedures and a shortage of skilled radiologists; advancements in teleradiology the increasing adoption of cloud based solutions.

Need of the hour

While India is making great strides in strengthening its healthcare system and services, the weakest link that continues to disrupt the improvements is the unavailability of specialised manpower. Teleradiology is already proving its worth in terms of the number of advantages it can offer the Indian radiology system. The need of the hour is to engage with public sector healthcare organisations in a PPP model to ensure the smooth implementation of teleradiology in India.

In the present era of evidence based medicine, Tele-radiology services should be in sync with the clinical profile of the patient and should be integrated with the tele-consultations. Teleradiology services should not only be confined to generating a piece of paper without any correlation with the clinical background. Teleradiology services should address the clinical problem, address the diagnostic dilemma, and serve the purpose of providing direction to healthcare delivery in a more comprehensive manner. Most of the present teleradiology services are not fulfilling these requirements and should be more inclusive in approach. As with clinical radiology practice, teleradiology should have a ‘patient-centric’ approach and a ‘problem-solving’ attitude. Teleradiology services of the future should essentially include ‘direct online consultation’ between the patient and the radiologist. This will ensure that the image interpretation is appropriate and the diagnosis is more precise and clinically relevant.”

Why does India have distinct advantages when it comes to providing teleradiology services?

One of the major advantages India has is its pool of skilled radiologists, advanced technology, and infrastructure to bridge this demand and supply gap, especially when it comes to extending radiology services to the rural sector, where 65 per cent of the population lives.

India’s success as a teleradiology hub is vastly credited to the competency levels of its subject matter experts and their timely professional help. It is no secret that the immediate availability of diagnostic services is extremely important during medical emergencies, and teleradiology provides a faster way to deliver them. Hence, one reason for teleradiology’s growth in India is that most parts of the world are facing a shortage of good radiological services and in-house personnel.

Adoption at Apollo

Apollo TeleHealth has redefined healthcare with its teleradiology services. With over 20 years of vast experience in the healthcare sector, Apollo TeleHealth has won the hearts of millions of patients with its compassionate care and patient-centric approach. Teleradiology services are an integral part of Apollo Telehealth’s feel for patients and spirit of care.

Obstacles overcome at Apollo TeleHealth

  • Technological accessibility
  • Border less communication across the globe
  • Skilled team of Subject Matter Experts (Radiologists)
  • Round-the-clock services
  • Cost-effective Services
  • Low turnaround time (Secured Information System for high quality secured radiological reports)
  • Quality policies for teleradiology to create a positive patient experience

Views expressed by Neeraj Lal, Chief Operating Officer, Apollo Hospitals

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