What is Online Doctor Consultation?
In today’s world, all industries are becoming virtually-enabled. Businesses are using online meeting platforms to hold corporate meetings; schools and colleges have started using online platforms like Zoom and Google Classes to teach students online; the medical system is also adopting these widely popular technologies for benefitting their patients.
Time has gone when you had to plan for days or weeks before visiting a senior doctor; sometimes even months in advance, if the best doctor is practising in the other corner of your country. Video conferencing, online chat service, Skype meetings, Email services, WhatsApp messaging etc have now become so popular and user friendly that many doctors and hospitals around the world are using these technologies to benefit their patients. The online doctor consultation is both time-saving and less expensive.
Doctors and hospitals are using different platforms for providing online consultation services. Some use very simple and common apps like WhatsApp video calls or Skype calls, others use more sophisticated software which has video consultation services built within an online patient management system.
Is online doctor consultation legal?
Telemedicine consultation (or “teleconsultation”) has been offered by doctors in India since the year 2000. However, in the absence of statutory basis and support, it was not clear whether it was legal or not. In fact, there have been news reports that State Medical Councils had banned the practice of teleconsultation.
Till last year, online medical consultation was not legal, especially for allopathic doctors. For alternative medicine practitioners, the area was undefined.
However, the Indian Government published Telemedicine Practice Guidelines (“Telemedicine Guidelines”) on March 25, 2020.[i] Similar guidelines were approved by the AYUSH ministry on 10th April 2020, for practitioners of Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Yunani medicine, Yoga and Naturopathy.[ii] These guidelines finally clarify India’s position on the legality of teleconsultation. It is now perfectly legal to provide teleconsultation by registered medical practitioners in line with the requirements of the Telemedicine Guidelines.
It has been clarified that the first consultation between doctor and patient need not be an in-person consultation, and doctors in India can provide the first consultation to patients located in any State remotely through teleconsultation. If a prescription for chronic diseases is to be issued, then the teleconsultation should be done strictly via video.
Telemedicine is defined under the Telemedicine Guidelines as:
“The delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities”
Online Medical Consultation Guidelines
- A doctor can choose the medium of teleconsultation: A doctor may use any medium for patient consultation, e.g. telephone, mobile or landline phones, chat platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc., other mobile apps or internet-based digital platforms for telemedicine or data transmission systems like Skype/ email/ fax etc.
- The doctor has to maintain the same standard of care during teleconsultation as during in-person consultation.
- The patient is responsible for the accuracy of information.
- The caregiver is deemed to be authorized on behalf of minor or incapacitated patients.
- No fixed Format for issuing a prescription.
- Invoice for fees: Doctors can charge appropriate fees for teleconsultation. A receipt or invoice should be given to the patient against the fees.
Online Homeopathy consultation
In homeopathy, we do an elaborate patient assessment which is called case taking. Homeopathy case taking includes every minute detail regarding patients current and past medical history, appetite, thirst, bowel movements, perspiration, sleep, mental state including any anxiety, long-continued stress, history of shock and grief at a mental and emotional level etc.
Homeopaths always need precise and full information for successful treatment as we do not treat based on a diagnosis of the disease and reports of lab investigations.
This need for long interaction with the patient makes it slightly more difficult to provide good online homeopathy consultation. Despite these challenges, today, many homeopaths are providing online homeopathy treatment services. During the Covid lockdowns, many doctors even provided free online consultation to their patients.
Online Homeopathy Treatment at Asha Homeopathy, India
To meet all these challenges, we, at Asha Homeopathy (the best homeopathy clinic in Jaipur with world-renowned doctors) have designed our online consultation programme in such a way that in online patient-doctor interaction, the personal care and individualised attention that homeopathy demands, will not be compromised.
We at Asha homeopathy always keep ourselves updated in terms of technology and services. Dr. Bhatia first started providing online consultation to international patients way back in 2002. We started one of India’s first paperless clinic in Jaipur, Rajasthan in 2006 with highly advanced hospital management software.
And now we are offering our services online with fully equipped infrastructure and highly competent and supporting staff. We are successfully providing online homeopathy consultation for all diseases to patients from all over the world. Patients from metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkota, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, to patients from small towns and cities like Jharsuguda
Each inquiry by mail or on phone is answered by our staff. After a patient registers for online treatment, a clinical questioner is sent to the patient. The questionnaire serves as a bridge between a lengthy in-person consultation and an online consultation. The patient has to provide full case details through the questionnaire and has to send reports of past treatment too. Once our doctors have analysed this preliminary data, an appointment is fixed with Dr. Bhatia for online consultation via Skype or other video call services.
After the remote consultation is completed, the case is assessed with the existing data from the questionnaire, a homeopathic remedy is selected. For international patients, a prescription is sent with the guidelines to take the remedy. For Indian patients, the medicines are couriered within 24 hours, along with the instructions and invoice. Patients are offered video followups every month and are allowed to contact via email or phone if they need any advice between two video consultations.
This transparent and guided approach to online homeopathy consultation has helped us deliver excellent results to our patients from across the world.
Benefits of online medical consultation
- Telemedicine provides the patient’s safety as well as doctors and health worker’s safety, especially in situations where there is a risk of contagious infections. A telemedicine visit can be conducted without exposing staff to viruses/infections at the time of such outbreaks.
- Online medical consultation provides rapid access to medical practitioners who may not be available in-person.
- Online medical consultation will not only encourage social distancing in special situations of epidemics and pandemics but talking to doctors will also allay their anxiety in the situation of complete lockdown.
- With telemedicine, there is a higher likelihood of maintenance of records and documentation. Written documentation increases legal protection of doctors as well as patients.
- Telemedicine, when effectively used, reduces the burden on the secondary health care system.
- Telemedicine is useful for a regular routine checkup on continuous monitoring and minimizes gaps in timely follow-ups.
Drawbacks of online doctor consultation
- It is not suitable for acute emergencies where a patient needs immediate care or treatment.
- Also not suitable for people who are not tech-savvy.
- It is not useful for people living in remote areas with poor digital connectivity.
Despite these minor drawbacks, online medical consultation is the need of the hour. As pioneers of online homeopathy consultation in India, the team of doctors at Asha Homeopathy remains committed to providing the highest standard of patient care, even while delivering online homeopathy consultation or treatment.