Telemedicine in times of Covid-19

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with NITI Aayog on Wednesday released the official guidelines for telemedicine practices in the country. These are aimed at allowing registered medical practitioners to providing remote consultation in supersession of the Medical Council of India (MCI).

TELEMEDICINE( as given in the Guidelines)

World Health Organization defines telemedicine as

“The delivery of health-care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health-care professionals using information and communications technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and the continuing education of health-care workers, with the aim of advancing the health ofindividuals and communities.”


‘The delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and self-care via telecommunications and digital communication technologies.’

Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP)
For the purpose of this document a ‘Registered Medical Practitioner’ is defined as a person who is enrolled in the State Medical Register or the Indian Medical Register under the IMC Act 1956.

National Teleconsultation Centre-CoNTec

Benefits of Telemedicine:

1.It increases timely access to appropriate interventions including faster access and access to services that may not otherwise be available.

2.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.

3.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.

4.With telemedicine, there is higher likelihood of maintenance of records and documentation hence minimalizes the likelihood of missing out advice from the doctor other health care staff. Conversely, the doctor has an exact document of the advice provided via tele-consultation. Written documentation increases the legal protection of both parties.

5.Telemedicine provides patient’s safety, as well as health workers safety especially in situations where there is risk of contagious infections. There are a number of technologies that can be used in telemedicine, which can help patients adhere better to their medication regimens and manage their diseases better.

6.Telemedicine can also enable the availability of vital parameters of the patient available to the physician with the help of medical devices such as blood pressure, blood glucose, etc management.

7.In addition, it makes available extra working hands to provide physical care at the respective health institutions

Tools for Telemedicine

RMP may use any telemedicine tool suitable for carrying out technology-based patient consultation e.g. telephone, video, devices connected over LAN, WAN, Internet, mobile or landline phones, Chat Platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc., or Mobile App or internet based digital platforms for telemedicine or data transmission systems like Skype/ email/ fax etc.

Irrespective of the tool of communication used, the core principles of telemedicine practice remain the same.

Prescribing Medicines

Prescribing medications, via telemedicine consultation is at the professional discretion of the RMP. It entails the same professional accountability as in the traditional in-person consult. If a medical condition
requires a particular protocol to diagnose and prescribe as in a case of in-person consult then same prevailing principle will be applicable to a telemedicine consult.
RMP may prescribe medicines via telemedicine ONLY when RMP is satisfied that he/ she has gathered adequate and relevant information about the patient’s medical condition and prescribed medicines are in the best interest of the patient.

There are certain limitations on prescribing medicines on consult via telemedicine depending upon the type of consultation and mode of consultation. The categories of medicines that can be prescribed via tele-consultation will be as notified in consultation with the Central Government from time to time.

Prohibited List: An RMP providing consultation via telemedicine cannot prescribe medicines in this list. These medicine have a high potential of abuse and could harm the patient or the society at large if used improperly
o Medicines listed in Schedule X of Drug and Cosmetic Act and Rules or any Narcotic and Psychotropic substance listed in the Narcotic Drugs

The guidelines specifically explicitly exclude the following:

  •  Specifications for hardware or software, infrastructure building & maintenance
  • Data management systems involved; standards and interoperability
  • Use of digital technology to conduct surgical or invasive procedures remotely
  • Other aspects of telehealth such as research and evaluation and continuing education of health-care workers
  • Does not provide for consultations outside the jurisdiction of India

Read in Detail Here

Important Topics Prelims

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