Tele-consultation still on unsteady ground in the State

IMA opposes it citing unhealthy fallout in patient care, medico-legal issues

Though the State is getting ready to come out of the lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19, tele-consultation in hospitals is likely to continue for a while as people are not yet confident of visiting hospitals for minor ailments.

Some private hospitals have evolved their own platforms while a few doctors have started using other platforms for consultation. The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which is against tele-consultation because of the possible unhealthy fallouts in patient care and the likelihood of medico-legal issues, has made it clear that tele-consultation should either happen on a platform of a professional body or on one approved by the State government.

Temporary provision

IMA State president Abraham Varghese says the association would not support doctors who use private platforms for tele-consultation. The Medical Council of India has only temporarily provided a clause to include tele-consultation and it may be removed once the COVID-19 situation becomes more manageable.

The IMA has a protection scheme for its members that is applicable in the new circumstances in case of any likely litigation on the medical care being delivered. But, it would be offered only if tele-consultation is made on a platform of a professional body or on one approved by the State. Problems could arise at an individual doctor's level or a hospital’s level, he says.

Some hospitals have provided a platform for telemedicine with facilities on the doctor’s desktop or at their telemedicine consulting room. Such consultations are still on though the hospitals have opened for general consultation, says Sanjeev Singh, medical superintendent of a leading private hospital here. “We are not charging for tele-consultation.”

New procedure

Some others have evolved a new procedure. Those who want to consult the doctor are given a time slot after a digital payment at a major hospital here.

The video call helps doctors get a closer look at the patient’s symptoms, says Sunny Orathel, its medical superintendent. There are 30-40 calls a day, he says.

Unless the doctors get to see the patient, consultation is just a general guideline not a professional advice, says Sachidananda Kamath, former president, Indian Association of Paediatrics. Clinical examination is the essence of good diagnosis and it cannot replace digital consultation, says Dr. Kamath.

According to gastroenterologist Mathew Philip, telemedicine is most useful for review of patients already undergoing treatment at a hospital since their records can be checked and advice given.

However, it would be difficult to guide patients who have developed new symptoms, he says.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 3:33:19 PM |

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