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Telemedicine to be next big thing in post-COVID-19 era, but doctors sceptical

Doctors at government and private hospitals are willing to welcome the change if medico-legal laws are changed and data privacy is given utmost importance  

Published: 03rd May 2020 10:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd May 2020 10:19 AM   |  A+A-

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For representational purpose only.

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: As telemedicine is slowly becoming the norm in an effort to practise social distancing, doctors at both government and private hospitals are willing to welcome the change if medico-legal laws are tweaked and data privacy is given utmost importance. 

Experts pointed out that medical consultations in the post-Covid era was bound to change as people may avoid going to public places. The Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) started tele-consultation from Friday to avoid patients gathering on the hospital’s premises amid the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Major hurdles

In addition to this, while tele-consultation may work for the private sector, doctors at government hospitals are worried about the large number of underprivileged people who may neither have access to the technology nor the literacy to understand when a patient requires hospitalisation. Speaking to Express, Dr Ravi Kumar, HoD of pediatrics at Niloufer Hospital, said, “While this practice may seem feasible in the private healthcare setting, it is close to impossible to have a similar setting in a government setup.

There are two important hurdles — lack of literacy among patient attendants and no access to required technology”. Patients can be divided in three categories — mild, moderate and serious — based on the severity of their condition. Telemedicine is only possible with cases that can be classified as mild or boderline moderate. However, to distinguish this, the patient requires intelligent patient attendees, who can identify if his/her condition is shifting from mild to moderate, or moderate to serious, Dr Kumar said. “Most of the patients who come to government hospital are barely literate.

We cannot expect such impoverished people to always have access to a high-quality video camera or even a smartphone for a video-consultation,” he said. Dr Hari Kishan, a general physician at a city-based corporate hospital, said, “Telemedicine is not a novel practice, but it is definitely becoming mainstream. For telemedicine to benefit, medico-legal laws have to be changed to protect doctors’ rights as the margin of error would definitely increase. Data privacy laws, too, have to be taken seriously to safeguard confidential patient data”. 

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