Consult From Anywhere
Telemedicine is a healthcare tool which connects a patient to a doctor, over anybdistance, using ICT (Information and Communication Technology), for the purpose of diagnosis, treatment or second opinion. “Tele” is a Greek word meaning “distance “and “mederi” is a Latin word meaning “to heal”. Time magazine called telemedicine ‘healing by wire’. Many of us may think that telemedicine is a new technology which was developed along with telecom advances during the recent years. But the truth is that telemedicine was first brought into use in 1960’s by NASA when astronauts first went into space. Telemedicine technology was used into early spacecraft and spacesuits to monitor astronaut’s physiological parameters via satellite. The history of telemedicine in India is a bit different. It was started in the year 2000, mainly to cater to the needs of the rural population, living in far off and remote areas. At that time, almost 80% of India’s population was dwelling in rural areas and telemedicine was the best bridge to take quality healthcare to them.
Today, telemedicine in India has graduated and is even providing corporate services to urban areas, bringing in various benefits, both to patients and the hospitals. Patients need not travel and can save on cost of travel and waiting time in OP. People residing in different parts of the country can stay in touch with their specialist doctors from wherever they are. This brings in a great sense of relief and convenience for ailing families.
Hospitals also performs its duty of providing continuum in patient care. Telemedicine has improved access at all levels (primary, secondary, and tertiary) of healthcare. It also caters to a wide range of conditions - including, but not limited to, heart and cerebrovascular disease, endocrine disorders such as diabetes, cancer, psychiatric disorders, and trauma. It also caters to services such as radiology, pathology, and rehabilitation.
Tertiary hospitals through their telemedicine network can provide the much-needed support to doctors working at smaller hospitals/clinics with ready access to specialist colleagues. This helps in stabilizing rural health providers, reducing cost to patients and enhancing public safety. Further using telemedicine, hospitals can expand their patient base to wider far flung areas. As the famous saying goes “Geography has now become history”. Hospitals can also decongest their overcrowded out-patient department (OP) by moving review consultations to telemedicine platform. So in short it is a win-win situation for all.
Two decades back when telemedicine started in India it was hard hit by prohibitive costs of videoconferencing equipment, so many stayed away from it. But now with the advent of PCbased telemedicine solutions, the cost has drastically reduced and the benefits accruing to providers, clients, and society at large has far exceed the minimal cost that now needs to be spent.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought telemedicine into the limelight. Software companies and even schools adopted the work-from-home solution and in healthcare, remote consultations became an increasingly attractive and safe option. Medical professionals need to stay healthy and disease-free, so the need for remote consultations grew multi-fold. Both Indian Government and WHO are advocating for telemedicine to monitor patients and reduce risks of them spreading the virus, by traveling to hospitals. At Rajagiri Hospital, the ‘Rajagiri Telemedicine Network’ was started in 2017. As of now there are 16 Telemedicine Centers connected to its network which includes a center in Mumbai and 5 overseas centres (Mauritius, Nigeria (3) and Oman). There are many community based projects undertaken by Rajagiri Telemedicine Network which includes “Poorvikam” which is a project for Tribal population and “Hello Arogyam” for rural population. Weekly live Tele-CME’s are also arranged for doctors, nurses, medical and nursing students across the country and abroad. Invites are sent to almost 580 hospitals/ clinics and 110 such Tele-CME’s have been conducted so far.
NRI’s staying abroad and Keralite’s staying in other states, regularly use Rajagiri’s Telemedicine Service, for their review or second opinion. Currently there are three telemedicine rooms functional in the hospital and the entire team of specialist doctors provide their support for tele-consultations. Rajagiri has developed a secure telemedicine software using which patients can easily get connected from their homes, using Mobile or Laptop.
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