Role of technology in helping build a private practitioner’s practice

The pandemic has triggered a paradigm shift in the methods with which practitioners and patients have approached healthcare solutions. The intensity of the second wave of COVID-19 has started to reduce in India however it has left severe damage. Several states are easing Covid restriction but with caution of the impending third wave. The resilience that we have gained go far has been possible only due to the relentless efforts of the frontline workers. 

The biggest struggle amid social distancing norms is communication between the patient and the doctors and telemedicine platforms have helped to solve these issues. Most of the healthcare solutions today do not involve any patient input. Allowing patients to monitor their symptoms and relay them to their doctors through various technological platforms can help improve both patient outcomes and a private practitioner’s practice. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for telemedicine platforms to thrive and allow doctors to monitor their patients in real-time.

MedPiper Technologies and Journomed had conducted a webinar on August 13th where the speaker, Dr. Sai Shankar spoke about how technology is the key to upgrading a private healthcare practitioner’s practice and producing better patient outcomes. Dr. Sai Shankar is a paediatric intensivist and a neonatologist also the Co-Founder and CEO of DOCKARE, a telemedicine and research-based platform. He has specialised in ECMO training and organ transplant in children and is currently working on cancer genomics and the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Healthcare. 

Dr. Shankar explains how the biggest roadblocks with using technological platforms in healthcare are the unstructured flow of information and keeping track of the symptom progression. Despite having various tools such as Gmail, Whatsapp, Messaging and Call Functions, helping patients and monitoring their symptoms is still a difficult task. A patient can get connected with a doctor and message all their symptoms to the doctor. The patient may not be eloquent and detailed while explaining symptoms. 

The doctors will craft the diagnosis based on the information received from the patient and thus not be able to provide adequate and accurate care. The doctors could also unnecessarily provide medications for simple health issues. There is a lot of noise in the information relayed thus hampering effective communication using these platforms. A large part of a doctor’s energy is spent on maintaining a proper flow of information from patients and keeping track of the symptom progression.

DOCKARE follows a B2B Smart Management approach. A single doctor is assigned to the patient thus getting rid of the hassle of visiting multiple doctors and finding the right one. The patients provide details of their symptoms which are decoded by the analytics of the app and the assigned doctor provides the treatment. DOCKARE also uses a hybrid model where both in-person and teleconsultation modes are implemented. Thus paving a way for personalised medicine. 

The DOCKARE app can be used by all categories of patients whether it be pregnant women, asthma patients, etc. In the app, the symptoms are compartmentalised into health modules of illnesses. The patient can choose the appropriate module and provide their symptoms using an emoji scale. This allows the patients to track their illness in real-time without any prior medical knowledge. The app generates a trend of the illness when the patient regularly monitors his/her symptoms over a long period of time. This trend is then analysed by the respective doctor in real-time and the decision on the progression of treatment is made. The doctor can also opt for long-term treatment options (extended package).

Telemedicine platforms also have the added benefit of e-prescriptions. DOCKARE allows patient information to be compiled and prescriptions can be formulated around that. This can reduce the issues associated with illegible handwriting normally observed in physical prescriptions. 

Dr. Shankar summarises by providing tips for how private practitioners can build their practice. 

  1. A hybrid model having a mix of both online and offline consultations is preferred. The offline consultations allow helping build rapport and establish connections with the patients. Online consultations can help reduce the cost of transport and curb the spread of the COVID-19 infection. He even suggests offering both paid and free options on these platforms. 
  2. Whatsapp consultations can be done as long as the telemedicine guidelines are being followed. It helps to build a strong database and add business affiliations.
  3. Actively engaging with the patients allows them to continue monitoring their symptoms and health even after the session is over. 

Data shows that a majority of COVID-19 patients did not show any symptoms and remained quarantined at home. Some of them developed symptoms later and had to be admitted to hospitals at an emergency stage while the body responded to treatments very slowly. The patients who were in contact with private practitioners in the form of family doctors were providing regular updates about their health conditions. This proved to be a boon for the patients and played a huge role in early detection thereby helping patients get treatment on time. Thus, the role of private practitioners is extremely important in the fight against coronavirus.

Author: Parvathi Nair

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