A panel of healthcare experts convened by the Association of Physicians of India (API) has launched new therapy specific recommendations for teleconsultations in India. API has partnered with Abbott to share these recommendations with relevant stakeholders within the Indian healthcare ecosystem.
The teleconsultation recommendations cover various therapeutic areas, including diabetes, cardiology, gastroenterology and adult immunisation.
The Indian health ecosystem has evolved rapidly, integrating digitalisation into healthcare. The adoption of telemedicine consultations or teleconsultation accelerated in 2020, with India witnessing an estimated 300% rise in teleconsultation between March and November1. This rapid growth has been attributed to multiple barriers to in-person consultations due to the pandemic, as well as limited availability of healthcare resources, lack of proximity to a clinic and other constraints.
This has prompted an urgent need for official recommendations to guide practitioners, who may be more accustomed to examining patients in-person, to deliver virtual care appropriately whilst catering to various therapeutic areas.
“Telemedicine consultations are now widely sought after, especially with the Government’s nod to adopt them for diagnosis and treatment. While general guidelines exist, there is a need for clear-cut and defined guidelines for specific therapy areas, which can vary significantly across symptomology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, testing, disease management and treatment steps and red flags. This necessitated therapy-specific teleconsultation recommendations to ensure structured, streamlined consultations and improved patient care.” said Dr S Arul Rhaj, One of the Editor in Chief and Immediate Past President- Association of Physicians of India.
The recommendations introduced by the API offer in-depth information that can equip healthcare practitioners with the knowledge necessary to adapt medical best practices for teleconsultation.
For example, the recommendations for disease management in diabetes span the entire patient journey from glycemic monitoring to counselling on lifestyle. The recommendations encompass patient history, diagnosis, testing, disease management and scheduled follow ups, thereby enabling practitioners to be cognizant of key parameters for decision-making, guided by flow charts specific to each therapy area.
The recommendations detail technological requirements, software and other practical tips to facilitate consultations. Physicians can thus make optimal use of digital tools, which paves the way for a structured and seamless patient experience.
Furthermore, the recommendations instruct physicians on conditions to rule out across various acute conditions, such as myocardial infarctions or arrythmias, which cannot be managed virtually and may necessitate face-to-face examination or treatment with hospitalization after an initial teleconsultation. They also uphold the importance of safety, privacy, and other patient rights and safeguards by familiarizing physicians with medicolegal implications, including therapy-specific drug types that can or cannot be prescribed during teleconsultation.
While teleconsultation cannot be adopted wholly for every therapy, it is emerging as a feasible alternative mode of delivery of healthcare across diagnosis, management and follow-ups, especially in circumstances where in-person examination may not be possible.