India is currently the second most populous country in the world with over 1.3 billion people. This number is projected to grow to 1.5 billion by 2027. With such a large population, it is not surprising that the country faces many healthcare challenges. These include a shortage of doctors, a lack of access to quality care, and a lack of access to specialized care.
The Indian healthcare sector is growing at a rapid pace and is expected to reach $280 billion by 2020. This growth is being driven by the increasing demand for quality healthcare, the government’s initiatives to develop the healthcare infrastructure, and rising disposable incomes.
Telemedicine is a growing field in India that is helping to address some of these healthcare challenges. Telemedicine is the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide medical care from a distance. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including consultation, diagnosis, and treatment.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how telemedicine is contributing to the growth of the Indian healthcare sector and the benefits it offers.
Telemedicine in India
Telemedicine practices in India have slowly but surely gained a foothold. The steps were taken by ISRO, the Department of Information Technology, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the state governments have played a vital role in the development of telemedicine services in India.
ISRO was the first to introduce telemedicine in India with the Telemedicine Pilot Project in 2001. This linked Chennai’s Apollo Hospital with the Apollo Rural Hospital in Aragonda village, Andhra Pradesh.
In recent years, the Government of India’s Ministry of Health has taken up projects like the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, National Cancer Network, National Rural Telemedicine Network, National Medical College Network, and the Digital Medical Library Network to further the cause. In 2005, the government also took positive steps like setting up standardized telemedicine practice guidelines by the DIT in the Government of India and setting up a National Telemedicine Task Force by the Health Ministry.
There are several well-functioning telemedicine services already in place in India, such as mammography at Sri Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, oncology at Regional Cancer Center in Trivandrum, surgical services at Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow, and more.
Telemedicine has also helped in alleviating the challenge of healthcare during large Indian gatherings, such as the Maha Kumbh Melas. The Government of Uttar Pradesh uses telemedicine during these events by having mobile telemedicine system vans equipped with videoconferencing systems. This allows doctors in remote areas to connect to any telemedicine-enabled medical hospital or super specialty hospital for an expert opinion.
ISRO’s telemedicine network has made significant progress in recent years, expanding to connect 45 remote and rural hospitals and 15 super specialty hospitals. The remote nodes include the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Lakshadweep, the hilly regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Medical College hospitals in Orissa, and some of the rural/district hospitals in other states. We are optimistic that this will help to improve healthcare in these regions.
Benefits of Telemedicine in the development growth of India
1) Telemedicine can help manage chronic diseases like bronchial asthma, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus while social distancing is encouraged. People with these conditions are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, so taking medication as prescribed and keeping their disease under control are important ways to keep the severity of the illness down.
2) COVID-19 is especially dangerous for individuals with these conditions, and it’s important to take medication regularly and keep the disease under control. Telemedicine is a safe and effective way to get care without going in person. A 2015 Cochrane systematic review looked at the impact of telehealth, which uses remote monitoring or videoconferencing, on health outcomes for chronic conditions like diabetes and congestive heart failure. The study found that health outcomes were similar whether people used telehealth or in-person or telephone visits.
3) Telemedicine can also be used to provide psychological support to patients and their families without exposing them to infection.
4) Telemedicine can help reduce the burden on tertiary hospitals by providing diagnosis and treatment to patients in their own geographical location and reducing the chances of patient exposure due to hospital visits. Telemedicine can also help in providing training to the care providers of sick and disabled children and the elderly.
Telemedicine is a growing field in India that is providing medical care to rural and remote areas. It is also benefiting the urban population by reducing waiting time for appointments and home visits by doctors. Telemedicine is thus reducing the burden on the already overstretched healthcare infrastructure of India and enables earlier detection and treatment of diseases.