In the current situation, when the entire world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of switching in-person healthcare visits to virtual platforms is now becoming a reality.
We are well aware that the medical industry, at least the majority of it, works on physical interactions, whether that pulse check from the doctor, feeling for lumps or taking a closer look in your mouth for potential symptoms. But those practices are now suspended for the time being due to the Coronavirus.
Health care systems are strained and under serious pressure due to the unpredictability of COVID-19. Some hospitals are even sealed due to a number of healthcare workers testing positive for COVID-19.
Because of this, telemedicine is looking like a real option as it makes the healthcare system more accessible, efficient and convenient for both the patient and healthcare providers.
Virtual healthcare as a concept existed even before the pandemic. In India, back in 2015, started an initiative that will connect 60 thousand healthcare structures across the country and provide services through telemedicine.
Medicare, which provides insurance to more than 60 million elderly people in the United States, said that they will allow patient visits to be done online. Furthermore, federal rules were also eased so now American doctors are able to consult on cases outside of state lines.
The current situation left many healthcare systems with gaps, that telemedicine can fill in. It’s very similar to the situation where people started working from home. This doesn’t mean that people should stop going to work altogether, it only created a smarter and better solution when it was required.
Telemedicine has the potential to solve 3 major issues with healthcare systems, not just in Indian, but everywhere in the world – awareness, access and affordability.
Virtual health care can first and foremost, help us provide better primary care in the form of follow-ups, getting a second opinion and screening the patient in order to determine whether an in-person consultation is required. Furthermore, this will certainly reduce the operational load on both doctors and hospitals.
Providing in-person healthcare services can be hard, when there are large geographical areas in question combined with limited resources. In many large countries, the majority of healthcare resources like hospitals, dispensaries and healthcare providers, are all located in urban areas. The rest of the population has problems with accessing the healthcare system. All these shortcomings can be address with the use of Telemedicine.
During the pandemic, we are strongly urged to practice physical distancing as much as possible. With more video conferencing and consultations, we will have less crowded hospitals and chances for the infection spreading are reduced.
But, in order for the virtual healthcare to work, we also need a change of mindset. We need to dispel the myth that online consultation is not as good as face-to-face appointments. So, in order to make Telemedicine work, we need to change our mindset.
Some patients are reluctant to show their symptoms to the specialist online, because they are worried the doctor wouldn’t be able to assess the issue correctly. But, the way to solve this is to have trials and the current pandemic could be a great catalyst to a much greater acceptance and understanding.