Why is Telehealth a Key Pillar of Digital India?

Digital India is an initiative launched by the Government of India which focuses on providing high-speed internet to all citizens of India, e-governance, information for all, among other services. One of the key pillars of the digital India program is telehealth, which can help in improving the country’s public health infrastructure.

As per data released by the economic survey of 2018-19, approximately 60% of primary health centers in rural India run with one doctor, whereas around 5% are not assigned a doctor at all. It suggests the inequitable distribution of healthcare practitioners throughout the country. However, this can be remarkably addressed through the proper implementation of telehealth.

What does telehealth encompass?

Telehealth can be defined as the utilization of information and communication technology as well as software to provide healthcare from a distance. It is often used interchangeably with telemedicine.

However, there is one significant difference between the two concepts. While the latter refers to the use of digital technology to provide healthcare from a remote location, the former covers all clinical as well as non-clinical components of health care.

Examples of telehealth include the following –

  • Education and training for medical care providers through online resources
  • Administrative meetings
  • Enhancement and promotion of public health functions
  • Exchange of health information through electronic health records
  • Virtual medical consultation in real-time
  • Remote patient monitoring using wearable health devices and other electronic gadgets such as ECG monitor, blood pressure monitoring device, glucose meter, smartwatches, etc.
  • Ordering health care equipment and branded or generic medicine online
  • Carrying out remote surgeries using robotic technology
  • Downloading apps that help in counting calories and insulin level

Objectives of telehealth

Some of the objectives of this medical facility include the following –

  • Delivering high-quality health care to rural and remote areas
  • Providing healthcare to individuals with limited mobility, those who are too sick to visit a medical facility physically, or individuals at their advanced age
  • Enabling patients to engage more in their health care through self-tracking devices
  • Facilitating easy information exchange between doctors and patients
  • Meeting the shortage of doctors in rural India
  • Improving transparency between patients, physician and other medical personnel

Types of Telehealth

There are different types of telehealth facilities through which the objectives mentioned above can be fulfilled –

  • Real-time interaction –

It allows patients to avail face-to-face medical consultation with their medical care providers in real-time. This two-way audio-video call can be availed in place of physical visits to a doctor’s chamber for check-ups and follow-up care.

However, the software used for audio and video call is significantly different from regular video conferencing software in common use as the medical facility uses more secure software to ensure patient privacy.

  • Store and forward –

Under this method, patients can store and share their clinical information such as pathology reports, X-rays, etc. with their healthcare providers. Through this model, physicians can access all details related to their patient’s health from one place and analyze them carefully for diagnosis.

This feature is also availed by other health care providers such as pathologists and radiologists can send the information to the doctor, or one physician can send it to another for a second opinion.

  • Remote Patient monitoring

Through remote monitoring technology, data regarding patients’ health is collected outside the clinical environment to assess their condition at all times. It is especially crucial for senior citizens or those suffering from chronic diseases.

It also enables physicians to keep an eye out for other symptoms in case of patients who are in critical condition so that they can suggest emergency treatment. Examples of remote monitoring include portable health devices such as ECG machines, wearable gadgets that track blood sugar and pressure level, as well as various mobile applications.

Individuals can also easily avail telehealth facilities from multi-specialty hospitals and diagnostics centers with the aid of financial tools like Bajaj Finserv Digital Health EMI Network Card. These cards can come in handy when in need of emergency financing assistance and prove crucial for medical bill payment.

Features of the health card

With a health card, applicants can avail of several features and benefits. These are mentioned below –

  • Instant approval – Applicants can receive quick approval for a financing limit of up to Rs.4 lakh that comes pre-approved on this card for existing customers. Moreover, since existing customers can only avail of this facility, they are not required to provide any additional documentation at the time of application.
  • Affordable fees – Applicants are only required to pay a nominal amount of Rs.707 to avail of the health card.
  • More than 800 treatments – The card allows you to avail treatment or consultation for more than 800 medical conditions, both necessary and non-necessary.
  • A wide network of facilities – Partner facilities accepting the health EMI network card are more than 5,500 in the country and are spread across over 1,000 Indian cities. Such partner facilities also include several pharmacies and online stores selling both branded and generic medicines.
  • Extended tenure for repayment – Cardholders can utilize it to pay for the medical expenses of the entire family and pay for it in no-cost EMIs over the tenure of up to 24 months.

Individuals can avail of telehealth facilities from any partner hospitals, diagnostics centers, or clinics and meet the financial expenses incurred with the health card. They can also use the amount available with the health card to pay for any further medical treatment or surgery if required.

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