Tele-consultation is future
Dr Harshita Surange, a radiologist, ultrasonologist at My family first Healthtech Pvt Ltd, said that doctors have to accept that digital healthcare is the way forward and it will prove to be a weapon against infectious virus and their mutations. Apart from reducing chances of hospital acquired infection, tele-consultation services have other benefits too. “It has to be the future if India wants to reduce its health inequity, 75 per cent of our doctors are based in cities and urban areas, while over 68 per cent of our population lives in rural areas. Telehealth can bridge the gap between those who have access to good healthcare and those who don’t in the next five years,” she told News9. Dr Surange has recently launched a telehealth service called DESH Clinics, for rural areas and for tier three and four towns.
To streamline telehealth consultations, the ministry of health and family welfare in 2020 issued telemedicine guidelines for doctors that define ‘telehealth’, ‘telemedicine’, its scope, technology used, sample prescription format, drug list etc. According to these guidelines, registered medical practitioners cannot prescribe drugs listed under Schedule X of the Drug and Cosmetics Act and Rules or any narcotic and psychotropic substances listed under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. For example, anti-cancer drugs and narcotics such as morphine and codeine cannot be prescribed during a telehealth consultation.
While Dr Surange talked about how telehealth is way forward, she also explained what the real challenges were. “For one, we have to deal with a mindset that consultations over a digital platform doesn’t feel real enough and hence may not be the first option for patients. Assisted tele-consultations have actually yielded better results than rushing a patient to a nearby hospital that maybe miles away. If not for emergency, telehealth is a good option for OPD patients,” she explained.