The lockdown, during which patients have been told to visit hospitals and clinics only in cases of emergency, has prompted several hospitals to start telemedicine consultations. However, the demand for telemedicine is still low and many patients are instead deferring consultations to the post-lockdown period.
R. Ravindra, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association (PHANA), Karnataka, said there was a need for the medical fraternity to promote telemedicine more aggressively. “Patients want to meet the doctor in person and want the doctor to physically examine them. But most lifestyle diseases and chronic ailments do not always require physical examination and can be treated via online consultation,” he said.
He also urged patients not to put off getting advice from a doctor beyond a point. “We are seeing that many are delaying visits and are coming to hospitals in serious condition. Sometimes, simple interventions such as prescribing a drug will go a long way in ensuring that the patient’s health improves,” he said.
Vikram Sreeram, MD, Mallige Hospital, said they started video consultations around three weeks ago. “We have seen only a small number of patients signing up for this. Our assessment is that patients are more comfortable with a face-to-face interaction with doctors,” he said.
S. Murali, chief of Clinical Services and consultant neurologist at Manipal Hospitals, said that around a third of their regular patients are opting for telemedicine, but the trend is promising. “Telemedicine cannot be a replacement for personal consultation and is only complementary to it,” he said. “It is also ideal for the elderly, who are vulnerable and have been told to avoid stepping out.”
Patients are not yet completely convinced about telemedicine. Shruthi Rao, a software professional, said she opted for an online consultation after she sprained her leg. Not very happy with her experience, she said, “Instead of opting for another telemedicine session, I will go personally and meet a doctor.” She admitted, however, that there were some benefits to telemedicine, including saving waiting time.