By Prof Bejon Kumar Misra
When the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip on the country, going out for anything, including any exigencies, seemed like a daunting task. Hospitals were overflowing with patients, hospitals beds not available and doctors were struggling to deal with the sudden deluge. At that point, telemedicine seemed like a godsend as patients were able to consult a registered medical practitioner (RMP) without taking any undue risks. It was ensuring patient safety, quality of care and also safety of the RMPs.
By June 2021, the government’s telemedicine platform, eSanjeevani, had provided over 60 lakh consultations, with over 1,600 doctors aiding over 40,000 patients a day. This shows that the concept of remote treatment gained traction as patients and doctors adapted to the new normal.
While telemedicine continues to flourish, many have cast aspersions about it and are setting guardrails that go against the entire premise of healthcare being patient centric. In a realm where safety and efficacy are paramount, we need to find solutions through which quality healthcare is assured and quality standards are comprised with patients at the center of it all.
Reviews and Ratings integral to ensure patient safety
Telemedicine platforms ensure that the credentials of every doctor, including their area of expertise, years of experience, and clinical background are transparently shared in a credible manner, empowering patients to make an informed choice based on sound process and information. Similarly, patient reviews and feedback have become integral to healthcare decision-making as patients seek the collective wisdom of their peers to make informed choices about their health.
Reviews and rating not only helps patients, it also helps doctors gain real-time insights into patient perceptions, enabling them to refine their practices and enhance patient experiences. While moderation is essential to maintain the integrity of the reviews, the lack of it poses the risk of creating an opaque healthcare system that lacks transparency, accountability and is devoid of patient centric healthcare delivery system.
When RMPs share information on public platforms it is mostly in the interest of the patient, and informed decision making should be the guiding principle for any service offered to consumers, with healthcare being no exception. The more information consumers have, enables them to make better decisions about their health and this benchmark should be applicable across the healthcare spectrum right from physical to digital.
Protection of consumers
Furthermore, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 rightly recognises patients as consumers, affording them the right to be informed about their healthcare choices. This legislation underscores the importance of disclosure and transparency that includes feedback, enabling patients to make informed decisions aligned with their best interests. It also covers a full chapter on product liability, which make it imperative to assure quality, safety and efficacy.
In times of emergencies, telemedicine provides a lifeline, offering immediate medical advice especially when in-person visits are not easily accessible. The popularity of telemedicine among patients is not a passing trend; it’s a seismic shift in how we approach healthcare. The government’s own initiatives like the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) and eSanjeevani is a testament to its commitment to embrace technology to provide access to quality healthcare to improve patients’ lives without undermining Patient Safety. On the occasion of World Patient Safety Day 2023 on 17th September 2023, it was agreed globally on the theme ‘Engaging Patients for Patient Safety’. With convenience, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and improved healthcare outcomes on its side, telemedicine is a healthcare revolution that’s here to stay. And as we stride forward, let’s remember that true progress is only achieved when the patient’s voice is heard and respected.
Prof Bejon Kumar Misra, Founder Director, Patient Safety and Access Initiative of India Foundation
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly).