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Telemedicine Practice Guidelines

Telemedicine

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 of individuals and communities.”

Telehealth

NEJM Catalyst defines telehealth as “The delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and selfcare via telecommunications and digital communication technologies.”

In general, telemedicine is used to denote clinical service delivered by a Registered medical practitioner while telehealth is a broader term of use of technology for health and health related services including telemedicine.

Advantages of Telemedicine

  • 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.
  •  It increases timely access to appropriate interventions including faster access and access to services that may not otherwise be available.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  •  Telemedicine provides patient’s safety, as well as health workers safety especially in situations where there is risk of contagious infections.
  •  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.
  • A telemedicine visit can be conducted without exposing staff to viruses/infections in the times of pandemic outbreaks.   It can provide rapid access to medical practitioners who may not be immediately available in person. In addition, it makes available extra working hands to provide physical care at the respective health institutions. 

Who can practice telemedicine 

 Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) - a person who is enrolled in the State Medical Register or the Indian Medical Register under the IMC Act 1956 is entitled to provide telemedicine consultation to patients from any part of India.

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. 

Guidelines on Telemedicine

 It provides norms and protocols relating to physician-patient relationship; issues of liability and negligence; evaluation, management and treatment; informed consent; continuity of care; referrals for emergency services; medical records; privacy and security of the patient records and exchange of information; prescribing; and reimbursement; health education and counseling.

Like any other technology, the technology used for telemedicine services can be abused. It has some risks, drawbacks and limitations, which can be mitigated through appropriate training, enforcement of standards, protocols and guidelines.

These guidelines should be used in conjunction with the other national clinical standards, protocols, policies and procedures.

The professional judgment of a Registered Medical Practitioner should be the guiding principle for all telemedicine consultations: An RMP is well positioned to decide whether a technology-based consultation is sufficient or an in-person review is needed. Practitioner shall exercise proper discretion and not compromise on the quality of care. Seven elements need to be considered before beginning any telemedicine consultation. They are as follows.

  1. Context
  2. Identification of RMP and Patient
  3. Mode of Communication
  4. Consent
  5. Type of Consultation
  6. Patient Evaluation
  7. Patient Management

To read the complete guidelines, click here

Source : AIIMS

 



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