Image Source: eHealth magazine
The healthcare system in India is facing many challenges, especially in rural and remote areas. The disparity between the care needs of rural areas and care providers is fairly immense. Although 75% of Indians live in rural communities, approximately 75% of the doctors and medical staff available in India are found practicing in urban areas.
Additionally, seeking medical care results in extra burdens for rural communities. Due to the lack of facilities, people living in rural areas often have to travel to urban areas, which leads to out-of-pocket travel, food, and lodging expenses, along with the treatment and medication expenses.
Moreover, healthcare spending in India needs a significant boost. While we are widely known for producing medical professionals, only 0.9% of our GDP is directed towards healthcare advancements and infrastructure.
However, keeping our infrastructural and resource limitations in mind, the option of telehealth presents itself as a helpful – and in some cases, life-saving – solution.
Many people within and outside of the medical community now understand that telehealth is a rapidly emerging technology and the potential it carries is extensive. In fact, telehealth also carries the potential to bridge the gap in the access to healthcare for rural India.
Telehealth has quickly emerged a cost-effective and convenient way for people to access quality healthcare services from their own homes; and with the rapid adoption of mobile devices in rural areas, this is no longer a far-fetched idea. In fact, with telehealth, people can receive remote consultations, diagnoses of their conditions, and treatments, as well as Telehealth can be used to provide remote consultations, diagnosis, and treatments, as well as gain more knowledge through patient education & engagement programs, lab testing, and other ancillary services.
The Benefits of Telehealth for Rural India
When we dig deeper into its possibilities, we see that telehealth and telemedicine offer many benefits to both patients and healthcare providers. Benefits include:
⦁ Improved quality of care
⦁ Reduced travel and travel expenses
⦁ Reduced costs
⦁ Improved access to care
⦁ Increased convenience
⦁ Increased flexibility, and
⦁ Improved patient satisfaction.
Improved Quality of Care – With telehealth, healthcare providers can deliver a higher standard of care. They can use the latest technologies and tools to conduct assessments, diagnose patients, deliver treatment, and monitor progress. Moreover, remote consultations can be conducted with the same level of skill and expertise as in-person consultations.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine cites an example of a surgery conducted remotely at the Amrita Emergency Care Unit in Pampa. According to the authors:
The Amrita Emergency Care Unit at Pampa was able to save the life of a pilgrim by a tele-surgical procedure using the local telemedicine facility. The cardiothoracic surgeon guided the procedure remotely, and the pediatric cardiologist at Pampa performed the procedure.
Reduced Travel – People who live in rural areas often have difficulty traveling long distances to access healthcare, which can be particularly difficult for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Telehealth can help with reducing the need for people to travel for consultations, tests, and other healthcare services, which can also lead to reduced healthcare costs for rural patients.
Reduced Costs – Telehealth can help to reduce the costs of healthcare. Remote consultations are usually less costly than in-person consultations, and many telehealth technologies and services are offered at low or no cost. Remote monitoring of health conditions, such as glucose levels in patients with diabetes, can also help to reduce unnecessary visits to healthcare providers and costly lab tests.
Better Access to Care – People who live in rural and remote areas often have difficulty accessing healthcare. Telehealth can help to improve access to quality healthcare services by providing alternative modalities for accessing care. Telehealth can be used as a complement to in-person care, as well as a substitute for in-person care.
Increased Convenience – Remote healthcare can be more convenient for many patients. People who live in rural areas frequently have difficulty accessing healthcare, especially during evenings and weekends. Remote consultations can help to provide access to care at times that are more convenient for patients.
Better Patient Experience – Dr. Yogendra Jain, a doctor practicing in rural India remarked on the quality of the patient experience enhanced because of telehealth services. “We saw a marked improvement in our patients’ anxiety levels once they learned they could talk to their doctors from anywhere they wanted to and in complete privacy. In rural India, where talking about many health conditions is still taboo, a remote consultation encourages them to seek the right treatment at the right time.”
Better Provider Experience – By the same token, conducting a remote consultation is also helping improve the provider experience. “Many doctors with independent practices consult at multiple locations, which can be quite far removed from one another” says Dr. Jain. “It saves us a lot of time to be able to consult with patients in 20-minute time slots from the comfort of our own home or clinics as well. This way, we can give each patient the full attention they deserve.”
Dr. Devi Shetty, cardiac surgeon and Chairman of Narayan Hrudayalya quoted in the article cited above, says:
“In terms of disease management, there is [a] 99% possibility that the person who is unwell does not require [an] operation. If you don’t operate you don’t need to touch the patient. And if you don’t need to touch the patient, you don’t need to be there. You can be anywhere, since the decision on healthcare management is based on history and interpretation of images and chemistry … so technically speaking, 99% of health-care problems can be managed by the doctors staying at a remote place—linked by telemedicine.”
We couldn’t agree more.
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