Med Tech

Telemedicine and technology uptake in recent times

Telemedicine has turned out to be a blessing during the pandemic as it is helping healthcare professionals reach out to more and more people. This has also provided the patients protection from exposure during physical visits. We discussed some topics with Dr Jaideep Jaison Rayapudi (MD Physiology) regarding Telemedicine and how technology has been adopted by the medical fraternity as well as the public. Some of the excerpts from the interview with Dr Jaideep are as follows:

Historical perspective

Telemedicine is not something new. The real boost for telemedicine was space exploration and especially the American endeavour to reach the moon. Those were the first telemedicine systems. Telemedicine has been in practice for around 50 years. The uptake for telemedicine has been very experimental until the pandemic knocked at our doors. When the pandemic came along and distances were set up, it became very important that newer solutions applied in telemedicine came in not as an innovation, but all as an existing solution which was applied very soon. So, yes, we did make a jump, we were expecting this day to come probably in 2030 at the earliest, but now we are seeing it happen already. New models and modules are being developed to not only handle outpatient kind of interaction or a teleconsultation but to actually use it for all aspects of applying medicine. Not just for diagnosis, but also for treatment. Emergency medicine is still to pick up but that is also on the horizon for telemedicine.

Bottlenecks

For centuries, we have been training doctors to see patients face to face. We emphasise that we must use the hand, we must touch them and put the instruments on them. Nothing to take away the touch and the personal factor at all, but how much do we need it to actually solve the current scenario? One of the biggest hindrances for telemedicine is not the technology but is the mindset of practitioners and to some extent, the mindset of the patients who sometimes believe that one has to go to a big hospital and 1000s of people must be there, then only it is good. So what we need to do is find a different language to have a different approach towards patients. How are we going to extract the important, relevant details of the patient so that one is able to make a diagnosis? And then provide a treatment? Yes, there will be gaps. But are those gaps significant enough to totally cut away this technology? Definitely not.

 

Telemedicine as digitised medicine

The scope of Telemedicine in the country has been limited to outpatient consultancy and the whole concept of distance and medical application is what is thought of as telemedicine. As far as inpatient care is concerned, the common question is now, why do we need telemedicine if the patient is already in the hospital? But at the same time, we forget that in robotic surgery where the operating surgeon is in a totally different geography and the patient is in another geography, we have daily intensive care. There are multiple intensive care units, especially in the United States, where the actual intensivist is sitting in something like a BPO office with multiple screens, and handling multiple intensive cares across the country. While at the remote locations, where the patients are they have good nurses to take care of, but the intensivist is not there. It’s more likely to be called ‘digitised medicine’ instead of telemedicine.

Technology is a leveller

We can use technology to bring the services of experts into places where they are not available. And this is happening in India. At present, many super speciality hospitals and institutions of national importance provide their teleconsultation services even in remote locations. Generally, a doctor will not do the job of a nurse, you know, it’s like too much, or a nurse is not allowed to do the job of a doctor. But ultimately, Technology might reduce the gap in these areas.

Role of technology in delivering training and education

The knowledge domain can be very well transmitted with the help of digital technology. When it comes to skills, maybe we cannot train people to do the surgery through the digital medium but there are a lot of things that can be done digitally. For example, if a dentist wants to examine a patient’s mouth, there’s a technique for that. It can be done through telemedicine and one can train digitally.

When one moves into remote areas of the country language is a huge barrier. Many telemedicine platforms do not support vernacular languages, which can create barriers for healthcare professionals in reaching out to patients from remote locations. These roadblocks need to be overcome soon if we intend to bring everyone under the umbrella of teleconsultation considering the shortage of manpower in the healthcare sector in India.

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