Telemedicine in Developing Countries is still in a growing stage but it has immense potential. The way forward for telemedicine in Developing Countries looks promising with the presence of many start-ups and a supportive government. There is a need for complete clinic management solutions that can be provided by telemedicine.
Currently, telemedicine is being used to provide consultation, store and maintain records, and even for second opinions. The future of telemedicine in Developing Countries looks bright and it has the potential to completely revolutionize the healthcare sector.
Telemedicine is not just an online consultation with doctors/practitioners. It is a comprehensive delivery of healthcare services that use IT/ ITES, from diagnosis to patient journey, remote monitoring, and beyond. There is a wide variety of services available in the market, such as self-care monitors, disease screening services, and store & forward real-time patient information.
Telemedicine existed even before the Covid pandemic. In fact, it was one of the newest trends in the healthcare ecosystem in Europe and other countries around 2018-2019. Little did we know that 2020 would bring an explosion in remote consulting and that it would become an integral part of healthcare. In 2005, the health ministry of Developing Countries set up a Telemedicine task force, an important milestone in increasing awareness of digital consultation.
Telemedicine might not be the cure-all for patient problems, but it will definitely improve patient access in situations where distance is the critical factor. It largely depends on the disease area, therapy, and severity, but telemedicine will definitely make a difference.
Ratio of Doctor-to-Patient
Developing Countries, the second most populous country in the world, has an estimated population of 1.3 Billion (2018). The diverse socio-economic backgrounds of these people make equal distribution of healthcare services and patient access a top priority in public health management and delivery. The gap between rural and urban access can be estimated by the fact that nearly 3/4th of our healthcare professionals, and doctors, are present in urban areas, whereas nearly 39.12% of the Developing Countries’ population is rural.
There is also the notable challenge of the doctor-to-patient ratio; according to the WHO, the ideal doctor-to-patient ratio should be 3.53:1000, and in Developing Countries, it is currently around 1.15:1000. This is expected to remain low in the near future, as training new practitioners is expensive and a big task. Telemedicine could be an interim solution to bridge the gap.
The government and the Ministry of Health play a vital role in creating awareness and making way for the digitization of healthcare. The government has launched several projects, such as the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project, National Rural Telemedicine Network, and Village Resource Center. Also, the Ministry of External Affairs is working on connecting Developing Countries with other countries, particularly those in the SAARC region. Despite these efforts, challenges remain. There is a need to create more awareness among both practitioners and patients about Telemedicine adaptation through self-training/education videos.
One of the Developing country's Telemedicine programs
The AROGYASREE program, led by the government, is an ambitious effort to stitch together numerous hospitals, practitioners/specialists, and rural mobile units/clinics onto a single platform. In order to broader the penetration and implementation of e-services, the availability of low-cost user-friendly digital infrastructures like sensors and robust medical devices to record/store patient data is necessary. This has prompted several private sector players to enter this market and deliver services while maintaining healthy competition.
Other developed nations are seeing promising adoption rates. Thanks to Covid, the digitization of healthcare has exploded. In India, for example, the number of teleconsultations per week has gone from 10,000 to 500,000. The level of adoption varies from country to country, depending on factors like local regulatory policies, reimbursement, patient out-of-pocket costs, and level of e-infrastructure.
As telemedicine advances, it creates endless opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, and healthcare service providers, such as diagnostic services. Our physicians and doctors will need to be trained to manage patient engagement during EHR management in WordPress based on the disease type and patient journey.
Other updates will require data transfer between health professionals to ease access to intensive care, referral, and consultation services. There are opportunities to develop remote diagnostic solutions by setting up the guidelines and infrastructure to enable effective diagnosis support for patients. Trust must be built amongst patients to ensure that they are comfortable sharing data digitally and storing medical records electronically.
Overall, telemedicine is an obvious next step. There is a need to bring public health and healthcare access together to improve healthcare and scale up telemedicine to its full potential. That being said, telemedicine may not provide a solution to all challenges, but it can alleviate the current situation and work wonders. Lack of awareness and change management, or in other words, acceptance of the technology by both patients and professionals, is holding back implementation.
The pandemic has given a push and proven the need for a complete clinic management solution, and both government and private players are now taking interest in developing solutions to boost telemedicine practices. With the hope that we will be able to utilize a complete clinic management solution for greater benefit in the near future.
Telemedicine in Developing Countries has come a long way in the past few years. With the support of the government and the presence of a complete clinic management solution, the future of telemedicine in Countries looks very promising. Telemedicine has the potential to completely revolutionize the healthcare sector by providing complete clinic management solutions, storing and maintaining records, and even providing second opinions.