Today the entire world is being driven by technology. The two most significant inventions, namely computing technology and the internet, have transformed every walk of life. Pocket-sized smart devices can now perform a lot more and faster than much bigger devices of 20–30 years ago. For example, using smartphones, products and services can be ordered to arrive at the doorstep, even in the remotest areas.
As society has accustomed to a digital world for everything from booking a cab to booking movie tickets, healthcare is also experiencing a huge shift. Now, it is simple to pick up a smartphone and connect with a doctor instantly or request a prescription refill. This is called teleconsultation.
What is Teleconsultation?
Teleconsultation or telehealth is bridging the gap between people, doctors, and healthcare systems, enabling everyone, to get connected through virtual channels, helping to reduce the burden on the medical professionals as well as the healthcare system.
Teleconsultation has emerged as a vital way for a host of healthcare services to operate, diagnose, treat, monitor, and consult patients online. We can book virtual appointments, access patient portals to get medical history or information, and get remote monitoring to continue with existing care.
A majority of hospitals in India are exploring and experimenting with teleconsultation solutions – if not already in use.
Telehealth – The New Normal of Healthcare Delivery
There’s been much guesswork about the “New Normal” in a post-COVID world. As the health crisis evolves, so do its speculations. However, one thing we do know for sure is this: many of the adaptations in the healthcare sector are likely to remain in place for at least the next 1 or 2 years, as COVID-19 concerns are expected to remain until every person or most of the people become vaccinated.
During this time, consumers’ preferences for healthcare access and delivery will keep on developing. As we have become more receptive to digital alternatives, innovations – like Teleconsultation will likely become ingrained into the healthcare system.
Furthermore, Telehealth also enhances the situation for doctors, who can find new ways to expand their practice, serve more patients, and connect easily with other doctors in their field and foster medicine.
Many Forms, Many Uses
Telehealth broadly falls into two types – synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous telehealth is performed in real-time, for example, a video consultation between a patient and a doctor.
Asynchronous teleconsultation includes devices that use “store-and-forward” technologies. For example, technologies like remote BP monitoring systems or watches from Apple that can monitor heart and breathing rate, help in collecting the data and transmitting it via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This can act as an early warning sign for those who may not realize that their health is at risk.
A lot of hospitals and healthcare centers have begun using online consultation services, to provide the following healthcare services in collaboration with doctors: Teleconsultations, observing symptoms for chronic health diseases, and interpretation of test results.
The next chapter of Teleconsultation
Teleconsultation appears assured to stay as a potent choice for delivering healthcare. Strong upsurge, favorable customer response, and hefty investment into this field are all playing a major role in the higher rate of adoption of teleconsultation.
With new online consultation models and innovations around virtual longitudinal care, we can witness a quick evolution of the teleconsultation space beyond the comfort and convenience that it offers.
However, this shift is not certain. It will require new ways of working, enhancements in information exchange, and integration of new technologies. Healthcare players need to take the initiatives to support such a shift and boost their future position. Only this could enhance access to better healthcare, deliver better patient outcomes, and create a more effective healthcare system.
Furthermore, while teleconsultation is a significant way to ease initial contact with patients, it cannot substitute for the core business of in-person examinations and surgeries. However, India’s unified healthcare platform HealthUno has a much different business model and is experiencing a surge of business linked to the pandemic. HealthUno offers a mini-clinic, an online pharmacy, at-home sample collection for lab tests, and online expert doctor consultations.