In about nine months since it was inaugurated, the Union health ministry’s tele-medicine service platform has provided at least 100,000 online consultations, shows data released by the ministry on Sunday, leading to patient to doctor consultations within the confines of a patient’s home, as well as doctor to doctor consultations.
The service has particularly proved to be beneficial for patients during the past six months as visits to hospitals have been limited because of the high risk of contracting coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infection.
On average, about 5,000 tele consultations are being provided per day.
The health minister Harsh Vardhan held a review meeting with States and Union territories on progress made by the platform that is called eSanjeevani and eSanjeevaniOPD.
In a short span of time since November 2019, tele-consultation by eSanjeevani and eSanjeevaniOPD have been implemented by 23 States that cover 75% of the population, and other States are in the process of rolling it out.
“Under the guidance of… Prime Minister (Narendra Modi), we have started implementing the vision of Digital India through broadband and mobile phones at the Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres. With the cooperation of States and UTs, and a pool of selfless and talented medical practitioners and specialists, we have been able to provide healthcare services through tele-medicine platform such as eSanjeevani. This has substantially augmented our health infrastructure during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Harsh Vardhan.
The facility will be particularly beneficial for people in villages where access to a healthcare facility is not that widespread.
“This eSanjeevani platform has enabled two types of telemedicine services viz. doctor-to-doctor
(eSanjeevani) and patient-to-doctor (eSanjeevani OPD) tele-consultations. The former is being implemented under the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre (AB-HWCs) programme,” said Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state for health and family welfare.
The health ministry plans to implement tele-consultation in all the 1.5 lakh HWCs (as spokes) in a ‘hub and spoke’ model, by December 2022.
States have identified and set up dedicated ‘hubs’ in medical colleges and district hospitals to provide tele-consultation services to ‘spokes’ that will be functional at sub-health centres and primary health centres. About 12,000 users comprising community health officers and doctors have been trained to make use of this national e-platform to date.
Currently, telemedicine is being provided through more than 3,000 HWCs in 10 States.
The telemedicine platform is hosting about 40 online out patient departments (OPDs), and at least half of these are speciality OPDs that include gynaecology, psychiatry, dermatology, ear nose and throat (ENT), ophthalmology, antiretroviral therapy for the AIDS/HIV patients, non-communicable disease etc.
Around 3,000 doctors have been trained and on-boarded at eSanjeevaniOPD and every day around 250 doctors and specialists across the country provide eHealth services.
“Owing to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Health Ministry launched the second tele- consultation service enabling patient-to-doctor telemedicine through ‘eSanjeevaniOPD’. Offered at no cost, this e-health service is rapidly gaining popularity as citizens in around 20 States are now consulting doctors without having to go to the hospital physically…This service is available as an Android mobile application as well. This has made it convenient for the people to avail of the health services without having to travel. It also ensures that the patient gets to see the doctor in around five minutes after logging in,” said health ministry in its statement.
Experts say demand for telemedicine is growing because of the convenience it provides.
“At Medanta also we provide tele-consultation to peripheral hospitals and it works well. In countries like US also e-ICUs is a growing concept. Plus, something is always better than nothing,” said Dr Yatin Mehta, chairman, critical care department, Medanta Hospital. – Hindustan Times