Hyderabad hospitals bank on e-consultation in challenging times

HYDERABAD: The coronavirus-fuelled lockdown has not only confined people to their homes, but has also badly impacted the functioning of hospitals, landing both the non COVID-19 patients and doctors in a dilemma.

With the government asking hospitals to stop non-emergency services and postpone elective surgeries, outpatient departments of major hospitals in both government and private sector present a near deserted look.

Some healthcare facilities in Hyderabad continue to offer outpatient services, but there is reluctance on the part of the patients to approach the hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19. The healthcare professionals too are worried that someone with COVID-19 symptoms may walk-in.

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To cope with this situation, the healthcare providers are resorting to tele-consultation services. Patients are being asked to consult the doctors either over the phone or via video call. Health experts say this is the safest way for both sides and will ensure no crowding of hospitals in a crisis situation.

Prime Hospital as part of Aster DM healthcare has introduced tele-consultation service, allowing patients to remotely consult qualified doctors for all general ailments.

Patients can avail services from 37 doctors from 21 specialities, including general medicine, pulmonology, cardiology, neurology, urology, gynaecology, gastro, ENT and paediatrics.

By visiting the website of the hospital, patients can book appointment with their choice of specialists and then ‘visit’ the doctor remotely via a video call. The patients can also upload their previous documents and diagnostic reports and interact with the doctors. They will be issued an e-prescription which can be used to buy medicines.

“We found video consultation as the best way to provide online service as it promotes social distancing and also gives patients easy access to expert advice when they need it the most. A tele-consulting tool like this has the potential to enable patients to seek appropriate treatment on time without stepping outside their home,” Harish Pillai, CEO, Aster India, told IANS.

Aster DM Healthcare Limited is one of the largest private healthcare service providers operating in the Middle East countries and is an emerging healthcare player in India.

Continental Hospitals have also started helpline number for consultation, which is available for free. Any kind of health related query will be answered by the designated duty doctors. This service is helping people who do not wish to travel during the lockdown period.

“Continental Hospitals also have an advanced state-of-the-art video consultation platform which connects patients with super specialists. This is a paid-for service, but is being widely used by patients from days before the lockdown and continues even now,” said Abhinandan, Marketing Head, Continental Hospital.

Doctors are available in outpatient department to address healthcare needs of emergency patients. “Though the number of outpatient consultations have come down during the ongoing lockdown period; we are serving a large section of patients community via our direct consultation, tele-consultation, and video consultation formats.”

MediCover Hospitals, a part of European multinational, Multi-Super Specialty Healthcare & Diagnostic has a 24 x 7 has a dedicated helpline number to help patients with appointments for online consultations and assistance for emergency services. Under this service people can contact the doctors from their homes. The doctors will give tele-consultation and medical advice for their health problems through whatsApp.

Though a paid service, this is being widely appreciated by people who do not wish to travel in these times of a pandemic. Out-patient and emergency services at the hospital are still open.

“The current situation has put both patients and doctors in a dilemma. Patients want to stay away from hospitals due to COVID-19 scare and doctors are also worried that patients coming to them may be a potential COVID-19 patient or carrier,” said S. Shantha Kumari, President Elect, Federation of Obstetrics & Gynaecological Society of India.

She said all gynaecologists and obstetricians were asked to postpone elective surgeries with some medication. “Only deliveries and some emergency procedures are being done, but necessary guidelines have been issued to the doctors for good clinical practices in the current situation to deal with patients who may have had come in contact with the infected persons,” she said.

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