Health care is challenging in the best of times. But with the covid 19 pandemic, visiting the doctor’s office has many risks. The coronavirus crisis has become a defining moment for telehealth or video consultation with doctors. Telehealth is not new and has been around for quite a few years now. However, the rise in demand for video consultation has made it easy to get various types of medical care. Hospitals have been sensitising doctors on “web side” manners. It is the safest option available for you right at your home.
The doctor must build the patient’s trust. A good doctor creates a comfortable atmosphere during an in-person consultation. During Bajaj Finserv Health online doctor appointment, doctors should give full attention to the patients by minimising interruptions during the session. Doctors should pay attention to their facial cues and tone of voice to make the patient comfortable. They should take care to ensure that technical glitches don’t become an impediment to the online session.
What are the advantages of telemedicine?
- Ease: Video consultations with doctors have made life easier for patients. They can chat with their doctors just like they would during an in-person visit. If you are consulting your regular doctor, you may have a telehealth system in place. If you don’t have a regular physician or are urgently looking for a specialist, you can check out telehealth platforms.
- Social distance: During coronavirus pandemic, crowded dispensaries or hospitals pose a massive threat of spreading infection. Doctors and health care professionals are also at high risk of getting infected. For coronavirus-positive patients who aren’t so sick that they require hospitalisation, virtual consultations are a boon. It allows doctors to treat a patient without risking infection or spreading the virus. Irrespective of whether you are infected or not by corona, staying at home is the safest option.
- Versatile: Telehealth is suitable for general consultations, follow-up appointments, mental health care etc. Doctors write prescriptions after video consultations. A substantial portion of the work of a physician can be done through video consultation. If you have the proper medical devices, you can do various health measurements at home. You can provide information like blood pressure, blood sugar, or electrocardiogram with the right equipment during an online appointment. Patients with heart failure can be remotely monitored in their homes. After knee replacement, a patient can receive physical therapy at home.
- Health equity: Telemedicine services canbe the tool to reduce health disparities if they are rolled out carefully. It should target people who are under-served by supporting them to access the services.
- Alternative: Even in some instances where an in-person visit is preferable, video consultation can be an alternative. For example, a patient may have to cancel an in-person appointment due to sudden lousy weather conditions. There are chances that the next face-to-face consultation can be inordinately delayed. It is better to go for a video consultation than entirely skipping the doctor’s appointment in such a situation.
- Service even in overload: Even when hospitals are overloaded and doctors are quarantined, physicians use advanced health solutions to examine patients remotely. By diagnosing more patients in a shorter period, they reduce the number of patients visiting hospitals.
What are the drawbacks of telemedicine?
- Physical visit sometimes needed: Vaccination or drawing blood for blood tests need to be done physically.
- Increase disparity: Telemedicine requires devices with the proper hardware and robust broadband for a stable video call. Many people in rural areas and even some urban communities don’t have access to smartphones or broadband. If services are not carefully rolled out in such a situation, the digital divide can increase the disparities. Free online doctor consultation should be made available to the poorer sections of society.
- Overload: The demand for remote health services has placed an unprecedented burden on these solutions. As such, there is a possibility of burdening the hospitals with many cases. This overload is because not all hospitals have the staff, resources or equipment to deliver remote services. When the coronavirus infects medical staff, the pool of resources dries up further.
- Fraud: There are cases of fraud happening in health care. Proper documentation is needed to ensure that what they are billing is what they are providing.
- Less insurance reimbursement: Insurance companies pay lesser for a telehealth visit than for an in-person visit. Insurance companies uphold the view that face to face consultations are more intense than remote visits. For instance, during an in-person consultation, a doctor touches the patient’s neck or manipulates his joints to do an assessment. Such nuances are not happening in virtual consults.
- Telemedicine companies evolve: Telehealth service companies are also rapidly growing with the changing times. Some companies are planning to release covid-19 testing kits for home use. Some companies even offer free online doctor consultationfor risk assessment of coronavirus.
Is video consultation with doctors becoming mainstream with covid19?
- Video consultation or telemedicine has been around for about twenty years. But it did not have the dream run it hoped to have. It seemed set to have a bright future. However, only a few countries adopted it. In advanced countries like the US, studies done before the pandemic showed that 80 per cent of people don’t use telehealth. The reason for not using telehealth services extensively was a lack of infrastructure and awareness. People also questioned the reliability of the services.
- However, covid 19 forced remote health care to happen. It forced healthcare institutions to look for alternative ways of providing health care while preventing coronavirus exposure. Now, whether or not the threat of covid 19 dissipates, video consultations have crossed the tipping point to become mainstream. The need for remote technologies to boost telehealth services skyrocketed. Governments worldwide took steps to develop telemedicine services. Medical associations released guidelines related to virtual consultations.
- For a long time, hospital visits were considered mandatory. However, people have begun to experience safe health care in the comforts of their home. Studies were done on Parkinson’s patients to compare patients’ satisfaction between online and offline visits. They showed that patients felt better after a video consult than they did during the in-person appointment.
Takeaways: The road ahead is to embrace technology and integrate it into the health care system. Video consultations are becoming mainstream, and there is no going back to the old ways.