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Telemedicine: Consulting a Physician in the “New Normal”

The global pandemic has certainly changed our lives and our daily routines. All of us have had to learn how to navigate our “new normal” while maintaining social distancing and complying with stay at home advisories.
Perhaps , one of the more challenging hurdles to overcome, was one of the doctor -patient interaction. Appointment with physicians at their clinics or in hospital outpatient departments, suddenly became a potential source of covid 19 infection and was a risk few wanted to take.
It was then just a matter of time before telemedicine jumped into the forefront. Even though the concept of telemedicine existed for a while in India, it was not very commonly practiced. However, with the India setting its own clear guidelines for telehealth earlier this year, there is a sudden surge of people adopting it as mindsets changed .

What is telemedicine or teleconsulting ?
Telemedicine is a virtual or online consultation, most commonly over video conferencing , where a patient meets with his doctor to discuss his symptoms and history and avails of medical advice, for a fee. It is as close to an actual physical visit to a doctor’s office, as possible.

What kind of illnesses are treated by telemedicine ?
The ailments that are most commonly treated by teleconsultation are mild or moderate symptoms, like cough , cold flu like symptoms without difficulty in breathing , allergies, diarrhoea and vomiting etc. In any emergency situation , or in an event where the doctor feels a physical examination , investigations or urgent intervention is required, the patient should visit the healthcare facility at the earliest, taking all precautions against COVID 19.

What are the various mediums through which telemedicine can be done?
There are various video conferencing software which are used, like Zoom, Whatsapp Video, Facetime for IOS users, Google Meet etc . This can be done on a phone, tablet or laptop.
However, there are many platforms or phone applications that doctors are registered with ,which can facilitate the video consultation , with easy links to e-prescriptions and billing systems afterwards, that makes it easier for the doctor to manage his practice.

What can a patient do before his teleconsultation with his physician?
To take full advantage of his telemedicine appointment with his doctor, a patient can come prepared . He can :
  • Make a list of his current symptoms , when they started and their severity
  • If possible, keep a record of vitals that can be monitored at home, like blood pressure, temperature, pulse , sugar with a glucometer, a pulse oximeter
  • Notes if anyone else at home is feeling the same symptoms
  • Remember to mention any chronic conditions and any medications that he may be taking
  • If any investigations like blood tests or X rays were done before the call, he can keep the reports ready and show the results to the doctor when Make a list of questions or doubts he may want to ask
  • In case he is asked to go to the nearest hospital or emergency room, he should know the location of the nearest one
  • Make sure the electrical appliance he plans to use is charged
  • Downloads any application software for the call if required
  • Ensure that there is good internet connection and range
  • Sit in a quiet and brightly lit area
  • Have a pen and paper ready to take notes if required
  • Check to see if the microphone and camera he is using is working properly

What can a patient be mindful of during the teleconsultation with his physician?
The patient can make sure to speak clearly and give correct identification and information to the doctor, presenting his symptoms and clarifying doubts when needed.
Overall, a virtual visit is the same as visiting a doctor’s office, but in these unusual times, more conscientious preparation is helpful.

Points to remember after the consultation ?
  • Make a note of the next scheduled appointment date and Take steps to follow the advice or take the medication provided at the right time
  • Ensure that follow up information is provided to the doctor, if the symptoms improve or they worsen
  • If the primary physician has recommended an appointment with a medical specialist,then he can make sure that the consultation is done before the next follow up

Finally …..
Considering that the experience will be a new one for many people, it is completely understandable that some may feel intimidated or daunted at the thought of doing a teleconsultation . However, it is important to have patience with the process.
While it may seem scary at first, telehealth systems could provide convenient access to medical care when one needs it the most.

Disclaimer: The content given is not intended to be a form of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your physician for any questions or before changing or starting medications or therapies.
Picture of Dr C P Ravikumar

Dr C P Ravikumar

Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore

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