Ayushman Bharat health and wellness centers across India have started offering telemedicine services as the Ministry of Health focuses on boosting online medical consultation services with specialists especially for patients in remote areas after the demand for online medical consultation which increased during the Covid pandemic.
“These AB-HWCs are being revolutionized by connecting them to E-sanjeevani teleconsultation services, which provide free and affordable health care to all,” Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Sunday, while presiding a virtual review meeting with health ministers and senior state officials. officials.
The government is seeking to establish 150,000 such health centers, of which 117,440 were made operational in March. All these centers started offering online consultations from Saturday.
Although private hospitals had been offering online health care services for some time, the huge response to the central government’s e-Sanjeevani initiative led the Center to focus on boosting online consultations.
In addition to providing patients in rural and remote areas with access to specialist advice without traveling long distances, the move has also led to a decrease in the load on hospitals, especially tertiary care hospitals, which is a huge problem for the country’s super specialty hospitals, as many end up seeing patients in their outpatient departments (OPDs) who only need primary care, according to a government official.
“Residents in many states have quickly recognized the benefits of e-Sanjeevani, which has led to an encouraging trend of rapid and widespread adoption of this digital modality of health service research,” Mandaviya said. “Patients consult doctors and specialists daily using this innovative digital medium to seek health services.”
In some states, the service operates seven days a week; a few states run it 24 hours a day.
That the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for online consultations has been established through surveys conducted by teleconsultation service providers.
The average time a patient spent with a doctor online during the Covid waves was 30 minutes, which is comparable to in-person visits, according to a report recently published by Practo, a medical website that allows people to connect to medical specialists.
The Practo report was based on the transactions of 120 million users during the three waves of Covid-19, and analyzed trends in specialties, demographics and described their consequent impact on the healthcare ecosystem of the country.
According to the report, as many as 57% used the platform for the first time after in-person consultations were restricted, highlighting the level of comfort patients have achieved with the idea of having an online consultation.
Demand in the public sector doesn’t look any different, with the Department of Health announcing last month that its e-Sanjeevani platform had set something of a record by delivering almost 200,000 consultations per day, and around 50 million consultations since then. its launch.
The ministry launched the OPD consultations facility in April 2020 during the nationwide lockdown announced by the Center in March to manage the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.
The service operates at two levels: doctor-to-doctor and doctor-to-patient.
Teleconsultations have proven to be crucial in helping to bridge the rural-urban divide by bringing quality health services to the homes of beneficiaries in remote areas and making health care services accessible to all.
In other countries like the United States, the pandemic has led to an increased demand for telehealth consultations.
A 2021 report from McKinsey & Company — Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality? — says that at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth increased as consumers and providers sought ways to access and deliver health care safely.
In India, authorities are implementing a hub and spoke model, in which states have identified and set up dedicated hubs in medical colleges and district hospitals to provide teleconsultations to spokes such as health centers primaries.
“States and union territories should mobilize all stakeholders to provide spoke services and connect them effectively to hubs,” Mandaviya said.
Experts also believe that digital media is the future.
“For most of us who have championed digital adoption over the past two decades, this digital health revolution is not just scalable, it’s revolutionary,” said Rajendra Pratap Gupta, author of Digital Health – Truly Transformational, in a press release. “Either companies or technologists led the first two revolutions, and this time it’s patients who are leading.”
“As working from home becomes a reality, consulting from home is also becoming important,” Gupta said. “The hybrid model of care is a reality now.”