The remote use of telecommunications for diagnosis and treatment of patients is known as telemedicine. Information technology now provides clinical health care from a distance. This capability may be used to reach out to remote locations when distance becomes a hurdle in accessing critical medical services. Telemedicine is especially useful to save lives in emergency situations.
Telemedicine makes use of technology that includes videotelephony, internet, servers, and also telemedical devices! Telemedicine is a product of 20th century telecommunication and information technologies. It facilitates communications between doctors and technical expert staff easily and complete fidelity of transmission for medical imaging and health data.
The Indian Medical Association at national level is keen to adopt the concept of ‘virtual clinics’ run by telemedicine. However the Nagpur IMA branch is still uncertain about the pros and cons of the subject. It is yet to take a stand for or against the concept as it involves a lot of legal intricacies. Conformists feel that the move needs to be debated at length. And the interests of both patient and doctor need to be carefully examined.
Moving along with the times it does appear that telemedicine is the need of the hour. Considering the shortage of specialists in various fields who are not readily available in smaller towns virtual clinics appear to be a good idea. However on two essential counts – patient doctor relationship and terms of payment the idea seems to go for a toss.
Patients of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, AIDS etc can be treated through virtual clinics very well. Overall it is possible for expert diagnostics to be a feasible aspect but the medico-legal side remains a big question. If things go wrong with incorrect diagnosis doctors could get into trouble. It is still true that physical examination cannot be taken in virtual clinics.
The downsides of telemedicine include the cost of telecommunication and data management equipment and of technical training for medical personnel who will employ it. Virtual medical treatment carries the peril of decreased human interaction between medical professionals and patients, an increased risk of error when medical services are delivered in the absence of a registered professional. All said and done it is the future and here to stay even as conventional healthcare is not going anywhere.