Nagpur: consult a doctor for each health problem and chat face to face, schedule visits and visits to clinics, pathology labs and finally visit medical stores to buy prescribed drugs – this could have been the patient program during the pre-pandemic period. But, after two waves of Covid-19, most of them have become things of the past.
Doctors are now available on phone calls and WhatsApp video calls; pathology labs began offering door-to-door sample collection services and providing online reports. Doctors are also ready to receive the reports online and some of them also send their prescriptions online. Pharmacists accept these prescriptions online and send medications home. The whole system has gone through a massive change over the past 18 months.
“The Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) was the first regulatory authority in the country to legalize online counseling ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other states followed us. It was an important decision taken even before the peak of the first wave, ”said Dr Vinky Rughwani, MMC vice president. Due to this April 2020 decision, the consultation on phones, video calls, online chat, mobile apps, etc. became legal and authorized. Doctors as well as tech-savvy patients have started to make the best use of this facility.
Vinayak Deshmukh, a 65-year-old diabetic patient, remains in Yavatmal and is under treatment by a renowned endocrinologist in Nagpur. “I take my sugar test at a local lab in my hometown and send his report to my doctor on WhatsApp. He also gives online consultations, ”he said. This not only reduced Deshmukh’s monthly visits to Nagpur, but the WhatsApp consultation made everything in written form available to him for his immediate reference right in his phone.
“Online consultation is a boon for seniors. Your medical profile is there on your phone. This is the future of patients who need long-term medication for lifestyle-related diseases, ”said physician Dr Amol Kadu. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also run frequent online workshops on this topic for the past 2 years now.
According to Dr Sandeep Yadav, president of the Maharashtra Association of Pathologists and Microbiologists, the online facility is booming. “It is convenient and it saves time for the pathology laboratories to transmit the reports by telephone. We always keep the hard copy available in the lab. The patient can visit as per convenience and collect the copies. But, online saves a lot of time, ”he said.
During the Covid-19 peak, thousands of patients received their reports by telephone from government authorities. The online vaccination registration process was an instant success. A very recent addition to this is a feature that allows vaccinated people to download their certificate immediately. These initiatives highlight the change in the field of healthcare facilities after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The time has come when we have to learn to live with the novel coronavirus. Going digital is essential to avoid crowds, traffic, the waiting period at the doctor’s office and the risk of infection. Hospitals are always there for emergencies and critical situations for sure. But, most of the time, digital home consultation can be the best option, ”said general practitioner Dr Parita Telang.