HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, India

India urged to ensure security of telemedicine

Doctors and patients were worried about online consultations without proper guidelines.

India’s government is urged to drive awareness on telemedicine and to ensure robust security around patient privacy and their health data, which can help reduce the pressure on the healthcare system that suffers from disproportionate facilities, according to GlobalData.

“While telemedicine cannot replace the traditional medical consultations and hospital visits for emergency conditions and medical procedures, it will certainly reduce the pressure on the healthcare system in a vast and populous country like India with disproportionate healthcare facilities,” GlobalData’s pharma analyst Sasmitha Sahu said.

The pandemic led to the widespread adoption of telemedicine in India. Against this backdrop, GlobalData believes that the growing market can expand as well as enhance healthcare access and aid in the success of the country’s national digital health plans.

The Indian government published new guidelines for telemedicine practice in March to facilitate access to medical advice, as the pandemic impeded access to routine healthcare for chronic patients and patients from remote locations.

Later, the Ministry of Health launched eSanjeevani OPD—a patient-to-doctor tele-consultation service—in April. It has recently completed nearly one million telemedicine consultations.

Further, India announced the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) in August to support universal health coverage with a budget of $63.6m (INR4.7b). The NDHM will have health IDs, personal health records, Digi Doctor, and a health facility registry.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant social distancing measures have given a fresh impetus to the hitherto sluggish telemedicine segment as Indian patients were keen on personal consultations for non-serious conditions,” Sahu said.

Doctors and patients were somewhat apprehensive about using this medium without proper guidelines in place, but with COVID-19 cases persisting, telemedicine is being used more, she added.

However, it has downsides including miscommunication and misinterpretation of symptoms and misdiagnosis, apart from non-medical issues like network issues, app usage and familiarity issues by technologically challenged people and cyber threats.

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