In India, providing In-person healthcare is challenging, particularly given the large geographical distances and limited resources. One of the major advantages of telemedicine can be for saving of cost and effort especially of rural patients, as they need not travel long distances for obtaining consultation and treatment. In this type of scenario, telemedicine can provide an optimal solution for not just providing timely and faster access. It would also reduce financial costs associated with travel. It also reduces the inconvenience/impact to family and caregivers and social factors. Telemedicine can play a particularly important role in cases where there is no need for the patient to physically see the RMP (or other medical professional), e.g. for regular, routine check-ups or continuous monitoring. Telemedicine can reduce the burden on the secondary hospitals.
The Government of India has issued Telemedicine Practice guidelines on 25th March, 2020 which provide a robust framework for practice of telemedicine.
These guidelines comprehensively prescribe norms and protocols covering all aspects of telemedicine practice like physician-patient relationship; issues of liability and negligence; management and treatment; informed consent; continuity of care; medical records; privacy and security of the patient records, exchange of information etc.
The guidelines also provide detailed information on technology platforms & tools to be utilized for effective health care delivery. Further, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has also developed a telemedicine application known as National Telemedicine Service, eSanjeevani to initiate OPD services free of cost to all citizens. This application works on a hub and spoke model to provide telemedicine services for citizen to doctor and doctor to doctor consultation. This application has also been integrated with 3.74 lakh Common Service Centers (CSCs) thereby facilitating access to equitable health care in the remotest areas of the country.
To ensure that only valid health professionals are able to provide services under eSanjeevani, the telemedicine practitioners are first vetted by the State Nodal Officer for eSanjeevani before being onboarded.