COVID-19 did what no amount of advertising and marketing ever could. It made online medical consultations mainstream.
As many as five crore Indians accessed healthcare online with an average frequency of two online doctor consultations per month, per user. Telemedicine, the exchange of medical information from one site to another through electronic communications, is done to improve a person’s health. But is it right for you and your practice?
Doctors typically use online consultations to:
- determine whether or not the patient needs treatment in person
- provide certain kinds of medical care, such as mental health treatment and assessments for minor infections
- write or renew prescriptions
- offer therapies, including speech and physical therapy
In these times, when social distancing continues to be the norm, online consultations can be the way out. What’s more is that apart from the convenience and time and money savings they bring to patients, they offer a range of benefits for doctors.
Communicating with patients through text messages, e-mails, phone conversations, and video calls helps reduce overhead costs, leads to a drop in exposure to illness and infections, increases patient satisfaction, and opens up additional revenue streams.
That’s not all.
Doctors can also reach more patients by focusing on online consultations. How?
It expands access to care
The very nature of online consultations means that they make the doctor available and accessible to more patients – everywhere. Be it a small town in Kerala or a small city in the Northeast, the same doctor can provide his expert opinion to a patient on that very day.
Telemedicine has proven to be a crucial lifeline for rural communities and those that are out of the way of normal care and can allow doctors to treat patients who cannot travel far for routine or speciality care.
Apart from this, online consultations also work particularly well with the working population who often don’t have the time to go see a doctor. All these people are potential clients for doctors who practise telemedicine and can add to their workload.
It brings the disabled into the picture
It is estimated that 10% of the world’s population has some kind of disability. The growth of the human population, ageing, and chronic medical conditions amplify the need for medical consultations and solutions.
But very often these people tend to stay away from medical consults on account of their disability. If they are able to reach out to doctors from the comfort of their homes, medical experts such as speech-language doctors and other specialists,
It improves patient engagement with remote monitoring
The increase in chronic health conditions and social distancing norms mean telemedicine can also be used for remote monitoring of patients who need to be under a doctor’s eye.
Patients and relatives can be trained to report vitals and metrics from home. The doctor and his or her team, meanwhile, help guide and take the patients forward in their journey towards good health.
It increases patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction is a key performance indicator of telemedicine. More than half the people who tried online consultations during the pandemic said that they were extremely happy with the service and would opt for it again.
A happy patient means more referrals, which translates into more patients coming in.
The facts that they no longer have to wait in hospital waiting rooms, can see the doctor at a time of their choosing, and pay lower consultation charges also contribute to their happiness.
It improves practice efficiency
Online consultations can help increase clinical workflow efficiency. Capturing and storing the patient data used for medical decision-making makes it easier to refer to it as and when needed.
The fact the doctor is able to do more with his hours leads to a rise in workflow efficiency and also boosts the productivity of the practice. Over time, it cuts down on no-shows, allows more patients to be seen, and can increase revenue.
Online consultations can also help doctors set up their own, specialised digital practice.
Dos and don’ts for online consultations
Amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, the Board of Governors tasked by the Health Ministry to regulate practice and practitioners of modern medicine published an amendment to the Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002, giving statutory support and basis for the practice of telemedicine in India.
Here are the telemedicine-specific guidelines that must be followed:
- Patient identification is mandatory during first consultation
- Doctor can choose the medium of teleconsultation
- Doctor must identify himself/herself to the patient before start of every teleconsultation
- Doctor should display registration number at every touchpoint with patient
- Doctor must maintain the same standard of care during teleconsultation as during in-person consultation
- Patient identity confirmation is mandatory during follow-up consultation; on need basis
- Patient held responsible for accuracy of information
- Caregiver deemed to be authorised on behalf of minor/incapacitated patients
- Caregiver identity and authorization must be checked
- There is no fixed format for issuing a prescription
- Doctor should maintain patient records of teleconsultation
- Patient’s personal data cannot be disclosed/ transferred without patient’s written consent
- Doctor should not deny emergency teleconsultation, but limit it for immediate assistance/ first aid
- Doctor should follow government limitations on prescribing medicines
- Doctor should not continue with teleconsultation, if not appropriate
It’s clear that telemedicine can help doctors extend their reach, be discovered by a patient anywhere, and allow them to run their practice as per their time and convenience. Offering after-hours patient consultations let them fit more appointments into a day and compete strongly with nearby practices.
The first step, however, is building a super-strong online presence. Let Boost360 show you how.