Telemedicine Is The Right Route For Improved Medical Care In Rural Areas

Ayush Mishra is a healthcare market researcher who is keen about medtech market. He has decade long experience of healthcare research and analytics.

India is the seventh largest country and second most populated in the world. It is indeed a land of many contradictions. On one hand, it has some of the world’s best healthcare facilities and doctors; on the other hand, many Indians have little or sometimes no access to quality healthcare. In the country's hinterland, there is a shortage of quality healthcare workers and facilities. But, thanks to telemedicine, this is rapidly changing.

The paradigm of the Indian healthcare is witnessing rapid growth today due to advancement in technology and innovative solutions, which has not only helped bridge infrastructural gaps but also led an enriched healthcare experience to people at large.

As India advances towards its goal of achieving $5 trillion economy by 2024-25, healthcare is considered to be one of the most important components contributing to the overall growth and prosperity of the nation. Government of India’s vision, strategy and planning is to create a much robust healthcare delivery system across the country. Thus, the government has focused on means to add fillip to the entire segment and added impetus on telemedicine as one of the most effective ways to make available better healthcare services. It is projected that telemedicine will help the large population residing in India’s interior and provide access to the same quality healthcare as residents in urban regions.

Talking about the government's focus toward the healthcare ecosystem in India; according to a report by the industry body Assocham, ‘The Indian healthcare industry may see a three-fold jump to achieve $372 billion by 2022. The sector is expected to generate 40 million jobs in India and 100,000 jobs are expected to be created from GoI’s Ayushman Bharat, the National Health Protection Scheme.’

The lack of quality healthcare in rural India
Today, various health systems are facing sustainability challenges to meet the healthcare needs of the growing population. India has some of the best doctors yet most of these talented physicians prefer to practice in the most significant urban areas. Only a fraction of them practice in the rural areas. As a result, when many rural residents in need medical attention, have little or no choice but to visit doctors who are not specialists. Consequently, the treatment outcomes of patients in many rural areas are not as favourable as those of wealthy urban residents.

Having said that, the adoption of modern means of healthcare like; mhealth or telemedicine is slow in rural areas. Patients and their families still believe in and prefer traditional ways of diagnosis. Newer forms of technology also need trained and skilled staff to conduct the diagnosis or right monitoring and evaluation.

Telemedicine bridges the divide between rural and urban India by bringing specialists who practice in the world's best hospitals close to residents of rural areas

Many organisations, telemedicine companies help facilitate faster exchange of healthcare information, hence, elevating the process of healthcare services. The current environment for telemedicine concept is highly favourable for setting up, both government and private establishments that are looking at venturing into it.

Telemedicine Bridges the Urban, Rural Divide
Nearly 70 percent of India’s population which lives in rural areas does not enjoy best in class quality of healthcare service. There is a huge challenge for them to obtain medical consultation at the right time by the right specialist. Telemedicine bridges the divide between rural and urban India by bringing specialists who practice in the world’s best hospitals close to residents of rural areas. With the latest communication technology and computers, telemedicine helps doctors residing anywhere treat the patients remotely. Residents of rural areas enjoy the benefit of being examined and consulted by a specialist without the hassles of travel, movement, time lapse etc. Furthermore, they pay a consultation fee that is significantly lower than that charged by hospitals and clinics in their vicinity.

Treating Patients in Rural Areas Using Telemedicine
Telemedicine is a potent and a straightforward concept. It works by helping specialists' who practice in the world's leading hospitals examine patients over a computer. While the technology has been around for decades, it became economically viable only recently. With a dramatic fall in the cost of data, the price of facilitating a virtual exchange over a computer terminal dropped precipitously.

Telemedicine in this Pandemic Era
Due to the current pandemic, telemedicine is more relevant than it was earlier. Social distancing norms dictate that people maintain a distance of at least three feet from others. Telemedicine is an ideal mode to transition from the traditional methods of accessing healthcare, across the globe. The popularity of telemedicine has skyrocketed since the pandemic took hold because it is the safest way for patients to be examined. E-clinics are also easy to set up and can serve communities in even the remotest corners of the country.

The epidemic has engulfed the entire world and seems like it is not going to evaporate soon. Consequently, there will be a larger need for telemedicine and mhealth clinics across the country, including that in the rural areas.

Communication technology accompanied with information technology, healthcare practitioners have benefitted rural as well as inaccessible areas to seek healthcare services in India. With continued efforts of private players and government’s initiatives, healthcare facilities would not only be accessible but also affordable for one and all.