Telemedicine is the way forward to help many Covid-19 patients in home isolation
With the second wave of Covid 19 pandemic setting in, it has been literally sleepless nights for many of the practicing doctors and other healthcare personnel, but it is, even these medical practitioners admit, only a fraction of the trouble patients are going through trying to find medical help. In most of the hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, they have ramped up our capacity to handle 5 times of their current strength. It is still not sufficient.
The other problem is people with non-Covid diseases are often not getting treated properly, thanks to lack of hospital beds and non-availability of doctors. Reaching out to general practitioners, who are like strong backbone of our healthcare system, is also becoming increasingly difficult, given the current situation.
Many doctors feel (and rightly so) that vibrant communication among those sick and the health administration will definitely reduce panic among people and medical professionals alike. Time is of paramount essence. Every second count, every life matters. Therefore, telemedicine helpline can truly play a critical role in the current situation. It's high time, the government, leading hospitals, various NGOs, social bodies, various doctors' forums and specialists like pediatrics and psychologists, should join hands and take this to the next level.
With our State healthcare systems stretched thin, the telemedicine helpline services should be created across the country, in an effort to help mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic Covid-19 patients, who are currently in home isolation to take advice from doctors regarding treating Covid with home care, and also for other patients, who are suffering and in some cases, dying, thanks to non-availability of proper treatment facility and non-accessibility of doctors.
Everyone is extremely concerned about the sufferings of people due to the havoc caused by the second wave of Covid-19. There is no doubt that those in home isolation should be given proper support via various telemedicine platforms.
The patients, who are already availing of the existing telemedicine services, are finding it extremely helpful especially in a situation where information on life-saving resources is not easily available given the health chaos the country has landed up into. There is also a lot of misinformation floating around which is creating more confusion among patients in such difficult times.
Just to give an example of how such services may function, the West Bengal Doctors' Forum (WBDF) with a base of 150+ doctors from across the state have teamed up with an NGO - SwitchON Foundation, to launch an online telemedicine helpline service. They are creating an increasingly larger number of volunteers' base and connecting Covid and non-Covid patients with doctors that include various specialists like pediatrics, psychologists, cardiologist, pulmonologist etc.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures have led to the widespread adoption of telemedicine in India. Against this backdrop, the growing market can expand as well as enhance healthcare access and aid in the success of the country's national digital health plans. The Centre had published new guidelines for telemedicine practice in March, 2020 to facilitate access to medical advice just as Covid-19 impeded access to routine healthcare for chronic patients and patients from remote locations.
However, there is a word of caution. Issues like miscommunication of symptoms by patients, misinterpretation of symptoms by physicians, misdiagnosis, apart from non-medical issues like network issues, app usage and familiarity issues by technologically challenged people and cyber threats, should be addressed and done away with, by all means.