With the onset of Covid-19 Pandemic, mandatory social distancing, the impact of patient surges on available facilities and the increase in exposure of medical staff to ill patients adding risk to their life has raised the need for the available healthcare system to be updated with technology for support.

The increased demand has put forth the concept of already existing Telemedicine and Teleconsultation platforms for better use. As per a survey conducted, 98% of people using Telemedicine and Online consultation platform were satisfied with the service.

Telemedicine is defined as a combination of technologies and devices that are able to gain information about a patient’s health status and treatment details remotely, aiding in better care and treatment intervention.

Significance of Telemedicine during Pandemic

Initially, telemedicine emerged as a platform to cater medical assistance in rural areas or in places where access to healthcare service is hard especially for the management of chronic diseases.

The increased requirement for personalized medical assistance especially during epidemics like Dengue, chikungunya in 2003 or in the current pandemic situation i.e., SARS-COV-2 in 2020, when the gap in the current healthcare system is getting highlighted, the introduction of Telehealth care services and Telemedicine is proving to be a novel digital technology strategy to strengthen the system.

While telehealth technologies are not new, the widespread adoption of it among patients and healthcare professionals in comparison to simple telephone has been really slow till now. With recent policy changes the barriers to telehealth access is reduced promoting the efficient use of telehealth services in more effective way to deliver acute, chronic to speciality care.

At present, multiple medical professional societies along with endorsing telehealth services, are also providing guidance to medical practitioners to practise in this evolving platform.

Modules of Telehealth

Different modules of the telehealth platform allow healthcare professionals and patients to connect and deliver better healthcare using technology.

Synchronous:

Involves consultation via telephonic conversation or live audio-video interaction using smartphones or computers.
In case of consulting some specialized doctor in another location for remote evaluation, other HCPs can be available for patient assistance.

–  Asynchronous:

Involves consultation via message, emails, and chats. Data are collected, interpreted, and can be responded later.
Patient healthcare portals like Curofy, Healwell24 provide such options for this type of communication between patients, and healthcare provider through a secure messaging system.

– Remote Patient Monitoring:

Involves direct transfer of patient’s clinical findings from a remote place to their healthcare providers.

Strategies to effectively use Telemedicine and Telehealth platform

–   Communicate with insurers/payers to understand the availability of covered telehealth, telemedicine, or nurse advice line services

–   Let your healthcare providers follow tele-triage methods properly for better assessment of your condition.

–   To use the platform effectively follow the following steps:

1.  Choose the right doctor for your condition

2.  Book your appointment at your convenient time

3.  Make a note of issues that need consultation

4.  Keep your medical record ready with you

5.  Ensure network is stable and the device is functionable

6.  Choose places that are quite

7.  Open up about your issues with the doctor and if in case you need support or assistance let them be available during the consultation

Insurance Policies Related to Telehealth Reimbursement

Pandemic has led to various changes in the healthcare system, and this includes changes in Healthcare Insurance policies as well.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) association has issued multiple renunciations providing flexibility (ie, geographic location, type of health site) in support of the transition to telehealth services during pandemic.

These changes are meant to showcase equality between the telehealth care service and in-patient clinical care.

Precaution Related to Healthcare Platforms and Services

–  Understand federal and state regulations with restrictions

–  Stay updated with updated regulatory action for the healthcare system and healthcare providers

–  Check updates from OCR (Optical Character Recognition) announcements related to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

–  Explore the use of healthcare services in all parts of the healthcare delivery system, community clinics, and pharmacies.

Limitations of Telehealth care systems

– Inter-state license challenges and other regulatory issues vary in every state.

– Not appropriate for patients to consult in case of urgency, underlying health conditions

– Inability to perform an adequate physical exam

– Difficulty in addressing sensitive topics when a patient is concerned about privacy and is not comfortable

– In areas where there is a limitation to access the technological devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, computer) needed for a telehealth visit.

– Discomfort of healthcare providers and patients with technology usage.

– Cultural in-person visits by HCP and patients are more preferred compared to telehealth platforms.

In conclusion, Telemedicine and Online doctor consultation platforms with proper usage and understanding among the healthcare providers and consumers can prove to be a boon for the healthcare system.

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