The Covid-19 pandemic has cestablished the need for an integrated healthcare system along with a digital backup. When people were dissuaded and refrained from giving a physical visit to the doctor unless absolutely necessary, seeking healthcare facility through digital platforms or teleconsultation received a massive push.
Since 2020, India witnessed an approximately 50% increase in new teleconsultation platforms and the use of those platforms for basic health treatment saw a surge of nearly 95%. 65% of patients are now more likely to use a digital format of medical consultancy. Doctors have also admitted this transition. For seeking primary healthcare, patients are relying more on digital and messaging applications. Teleconsultation is expected to boom in the healthcare sector in near future.
The pandemic scenario
During the worst phase of the pandemic, poor health infrastructure of the country, especially in the remote rural areas were identified. Most of these places, being too remote, were out of reach or health services. Teleconsultation is turning out to be effective for these remote areas as it is saving the travel time of the rural residents to reach their nearest healthcare provider. An important factor is travel cost. A large section of the rural population suffers from poverty and low income and as a result they are unable to afford the cost of travelling to any health centre. Contacting the doctors over phone or video conferencing can solve all of these problems. In certain cases of health emergencies like child delivery, snake bites, heart attack etc, the geographical barrier often becomes a problem. Telemedicine through teleconsultation can ease this problem by providing basic instant care.
The blended mode of healthcare
Experts believe that the healthcare ecosystem is likely to adapt to a blended model which will include both physical as well as digital facilities and can be called a ‘phygital’ type of healthcare. For this model of healthcare, data is the basic requisite. The pandemic has proved that an authentic and adequate amount of data about patients and victims can help in taking rapid action. Though the effect of Covid-19 is deadly, it was data collected about the number of infected and their symptoms that helped to bring the virus under control. Avoiding physical contact is the main focus of escaping this virus and teleconsultation plays a pivotal role here because through this, patients can avail medical care over video conference, skype, call, text messages without even stepping out of their home. This will prevent the spread of the virus as well.
This blended mode of healthcare is expected to become the new normal even after the pandemic ends. But is still at a preliminary stage and lacks proper infrastructure. To make the utmost use of the phygital healthcare that includes both teleconsultation and telemedicine, the government must take initiative to create an integrated healthcare system. Both government and private players must be brought together to enable the transition to a hybrid, digitally-enabled mode of treatment. The Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) scheme of the Indian government is making remarkable progress in strengthening digital health infrastructure. With the recent addition of 13 more integrated health applications, the scheme now consists of 16 government sector applications and 24 private sector applications. This is decreasing the existing gap in the field of health and is also trying to reach the ‘last mile’ through digital health highways.
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