I have been practising medicine for the past 18 years. The concept of telemedicine was introduced to me when I joined Sunshine Hospitals about 10 months ago, where they were using MFine as a platform for online consultations. Like any non-conventional form of practice, I was a bit sceptic about this relatively new tool. I used to wonder- ‘Why would a patient trust the doctor issuing medical advice while sitting in some remote part of the country, without physical examination?’
I often thought that how would it help a doctor foster his or her career if there was absolutely no physical contact with the patient. This platform may also encourage leisure consultation by the patient, with no seriousness whatsoever.
As someone who is not tech-savvy, it took me a while to adapt to the software. Chatting, listening to the audio messages and typing the prescription seemed a little tedious in the beginning. But I mastered the process in 2 months. Thus, began my astonishing journey into the digital world of medicine with MFine.
I can say for sure that online consultation is not a completely foolproof method of medical consultation since a physical examination is mandatory in some cases. But in this modern era, the skills of a doctor can be leveraged without having to travel for the appointment and wait in queues. Consultations can now be done online! However, it is the patient’s choice as to what sort of consultation he or she wants to undergo.
Teleconsultation amidst the lockdown
The lockdown implemented by the Indian government in the light of the COVID -19 pandemic has hampered the movement of people throughout the country. It has forced them to try alternative modes of medical consultation. Thus, there is a sudden spurt in the number of online consultations. This has provided physical and mental relief to the patients, who would have otherwise undergone distress had their problems not been solved.
Women who missed their periods usually went to next-door pharmacies to get the UPT kit and conduct the test in 2 minutes. Now with the lockdown in place, I get a lot of calls from patients who have no access to medicines. Typically, such patients have very high anxiety levels. They are confused, irritated and helpless about something which seemed so simple on any normal day. Vomiting and giddiness which are simple signs of pregnancy are now causing panic amongst women. Thus, online counselling and digital prescription at this crucial time are like a boon to them.
Saving lives online
Recently, a patient called to seek opinion on her bouts of bleeding. I had suggested her to get an ultrasound scan done. However, it turned out that every hospital she approached refused the scan on the grounds that it was not an emergency and did not require critical care during the lockdown. I referred her to a diagnostic centre. The ultrasound reports depicted an ectopic pregnancy, which had to be terminated as soon as possible. She then approached a doctor who treated on an emergency basis and helped her in terminating the pregnancy. This online consultation saved the life of a patient who lived 500 km away from the city of Hyderabad.
I recall one more case wherein a couple undergoing infertility treatment had no means of transport to reach the hospital. They felt helpless as they were half the way into the treatment. The couple was going through a lot of emotional agonies along with the loss of time and money. Telemedicine played a huge role in comforting and counselling them. In my experience, people from the remotest areas of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra harvested the benefits of this marvellous technology.
All over the world, pregnancy is treated with sanctity. Pregnant women are treated with the utmost care as they go through a lot of trouble. Especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, their physical and emotional pains knows no bounds. Staying indoors all the time, with no domestic help with a family and work to manage, has taken a toll on women’s physical and emotional well-being. Needless arguments with family members or the partners have led to more psychological distress. Not to forget, the pregnancy symptoms adding more to their emotional burden. At such times, consulting a doctor online brings solace to such patients.
A rewarding experience
For me, up until this point, online consultation has been a gratifying experience. I have realized, telemedicine is a natural evolution of healthcare in the digital world, where time and distance are no more a constraint to approach doctors.
During such unpredictable times, I would advise everyone to follow the lockdown rules, stay healthy and go for teleconsultation if you have a medical query. The medical fraternity has always withstood tough times and will provide extraordinary service even when it is online.
Stay home, stay safe and remember, we are just one tap away.