hipaa-compliant telemedicine apps
hipaa-compliant telemedicine apps
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Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld, spoke to Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation to know more about the adoption and implementation of telemedicine in providing healthcare services to the most underserved sections of society.

With guidelines set under the “Telemedicine Practice Guidelines” by the Medical Council of India, how would you evaluate the future?
The guidelines give us a clear understanding of the three tiers of telemedicine for communicating through video, audio, and text-based applications. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic people are reluctant to visit doctors and telemedicine in now the new normal for both urban as well as rural populations. The private sector has jumped onto the bandwagon and is interested in providing telemedicine services, particularly in urban areas.

·From a policy perspective, what changes do see coming in for telemedicine and telehealth?
There is a strong need for public-private partnerships (PPP) in this domain and policy changes can influence their development at a holistic level. We envisage a larger influx of new players, especially startups, entering the space through various collaborations with the government and other private entities. Policies incubating such organizations, will not only help forge stronger partnerships but also enable a wider audience to access quality healthcare at a lower cost. Smile Foundation is focusing on strengthening the system by setting up telemedicine clinics at subcenters to increase the access to primary healthcare and reduce the burden at the primary healthcare level, under the PPP model. Sustainability will be achieved, by later handing over the functioning telemedicine clinics to the government, for them to operate.

Please elaborate on how telemedicine is reaching the underserved areas? And do you believe it is the answer to PHCs challenge in India?
The concept of telemedicine works on the simple principle of providing healthcare services from a distance, and this answers the need of providing healthcare in India, even in the hinterlands. While PHCs are essential in providing physical connectivity until the last mile, their integration with telemedicine centers can aid in an evolved and superior system of healthcare delivery. It is crucial that telemedicine aids in reaching out to areas not reached, rather than replacing existing infrastructure. Additionally, mobile healthcare units can also be deployed to work in tandem with telemedicine, to reach people where internet connectivity is low or unreliable.
In India, there is one government doctor for every 10,189 people as against the recommended ratio of 1:1,000 by the World Health Organization (WHO). There is a deficit of 600,000 doctors, and it takes 6 years for a doctor to start practicing. Given the shortage of doctors, it is sub-optimal to put doctors in a PHC with a low patient load. However, with the use of telemedicine, geography will become immaterial and demand can be shared uniformly across a panel of doctors.

While planning for centers, do you look for specific locations? Are there any set criteria you follow?
Smile Foundation works with government and private sector organizations to ensure that telemedicine centers are strategically located and provide healthcare services to the most underserved sections of society. We also conduct baseline studies and consult the Chief Medical Officer to finalize locations so that there is no overlap of services.

·How is Smile Foundation supporting this new model of health services and what has the experience been so far?
Our experience has been varied and we have seen success integrating the telemedicine model with our mobile healthcare units named ‘Smile on Wheels’, to enhance access and also provide specialized services including

  • Tele-consultation through the mobile medical unit.
  • In places where patients can afford marginal out of pocket expenses, we are implementing a model wherein a patient pays less than Rs 200/- for a doctor consultation, medicine and the diagnostic service. This is being implemented in the Bhilwara district of Rajasthan.
  • To increase the reach of government labs testing for Covid-19 infection, we have integrated our mobile vans into the government system for collecting the samples from locations whose addresses are provided by the control room, managed by the government.
  • We have also introduced a new concept wherein instead of a patient coming to a doctor, a nurse with her laptop goes to the patient’s house for tele-consultation and providing medicine based on the online prescription generated, which is also shared with patients for future reference.

Source of this information : https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/health-it/telemedicine-answers-the-need-of-providing-healthcare-in-india-santanu-mishra-co-founder-smile-foundation/78819985

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