Friday, March 24

Pvt hosps switch to online consultation, telemedicine to minimize virus threat

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Desperate times call for innovative measures. While Covid-19 has forced scores of city doctors to cut themselves off from patients and switch to long-distance consultations, private hospitals are opening up online platforms and telemedicine facilities to reach out with medical advice. While many have asked patients to stick to telephone consultations or video calls unless there’s a pressing emergency, others have formed WhatsApp groups. Some private hospitals have set up helpline numbers to counsel patients and restrict patient number.

AMRI Hospitals has set up five digital platforms for consultations — a helpline number, email, Skype call, Facebook messenger and What’sApp — for patients who don’t have Covid 19 symptoms. The idea is to let them seek advice without having to leave home or risk going to close to those with symptoms. “Non-Covid patients need protection and can use these platforms, leaving our hospitals free for those who need to visit hospitals in person. So far, we have reached out to 50,000 telling them about the availability of these platforms,” said an AMRI spokesperson.

RN Tagore International Instiute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) is working to set up a telemedicine service through video consultation. “We are working on a platform to enable video consultation. Certain legal formalities need to be ensured as per the telemedicine practice guidelines. This would take us another two days. We should be live in consultation online from next week across all our units in Kolkata namely RTIICS, Narayana Superspecialty Hospital Howrah and Narayana Hospital at Barasat,” said RTIICS zonal director R Venkatesh. He added that once all the medico-legal formalities were completed, doctors can even upload prescriptions.

Digital consultations will be useful for patients who need to follow-up on their treatment, said AMRI Salt Lake consultant Debashish Saha. “I have been providing consultations on What’sApp for several years now, especially to my diabetes patients. They provide me updates on their blood sugar counts and I alter medicine dosage accordingly. Now, we will have multiple online platforms at our disposal letting us reach out to more patients who wouldn’t need to see us in person,” said Saha.

He, however, added that online advise had its limitations. “While in some cases, the visible symptoms could be consistent with the ailment, it may not be so in others. For instance, a fever could be triggered by myriad reasons that can’t always be assessed without physical examination,” said Saha.

Medica Superspecialty Hospital has started using its helpline number for long-distance advise and counselling. “We are using it to counsel patients with some advice on medicines. They are mostly non-Covid suspects who are stressed at not being able to get in touch with their doctors,” said Medica consultant Amitabha Saha. Belle Vue Clinic, too, is contemplating a long-distance facility. “We have consulted our doctors and they will get back to us with a plan in a day or two,” said CEO P Tondon.

Onco-surgeon Diptendra Sarkar is among three SSKM doctors to shut down their chambers at a private clinic. The purpose, according to Sarkar, is two-fold. “First, it has stopped those seeking non-emergency consultations to stay at home. I am interacting with them over phone. Secondly, it has freed up a lot of time for me making it easier for me to devote more time to SSKM Hospital which is handling a large number of Covid 19 suspects,” said Sarkar. He has deferred all non-emergency surgeries. Dermatologist Kaushik Lahiri shut down his chamber last week and moved to telephone consultations.

Pediatrician Agnimita Sarkar has set up a What’sApp group for her patients. “I am prescribing general medicines for children and asking parents to call from a local pharmacy. I narrating the names of drugs to the pharmacy people as an alternative to prescriptions,” she said.


Source: Times of India

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