The Financial Express

Helping popularisation of telemedicine

Published: June 09, 2020 21:37:36 | Updated: June 11, 2020 21:52:42

Helping popularisation of telemedicine

As Bangladesh's war against the covid-19 pandemic has entered its 10th week with the general public wondering how our doctors, who are engaged in the frontline, are faring in their fight, they have been presented with a heartening piece of news.  It is that the doctors have shown their readiness to help patients by way of launching a telemedicine platform that will run round the clock to serve the covid-19 as well as general patients. There could not be a better piece of news at a time when with the rising number of covid-19 patients, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide proper medical attention to all the patients at the few dedicated hospitals serving the pandemic victims. And in the absence of any proven drug against the virus or a vaccine to prevent its attack, the general hospitals are often found shy of accepting covid-19 patients fearing that they (covid-19 patients) might infect common patients. Even doctors, nurses and other staff of those hospitals are not immune from such fears. That is hardly surprising because the supply of resources, both human and material, has often been outmatched by their demand.  As a result, sometimes the service providers feel unprotected due to insufficient supply of necessary protective gears against the pandemic. Add to this the attendant fear and prejudice surrounding the pandemic that makes every patient seeking medical service at a hospital a potential carrier of covid-19.

Under the circumstances, telemedicine shows an alternative way of offering medical advice to both general and covid-19-infected patients avoiding close proximity between doctors and patients. The new telemedicine platform comprising a few national associations of doctors like a number of other such bodies will operate in a networked environment where a partner hospital, the government's health and family welfare ministry, the directorate general of health services and a number of drug manufacturers will extend necessary support. With their reach extending to the district level hospitals and healthcare facilities, such telemedicine service providers, unlike the traditional hospitals or individual specialist doctors, can provide an integrated service to a greater number of patients at the same time.

 Obviously, equipped with modern telecommunications technology, the doctors will be better placed to more closely connect, advise and monitor covid-19 or other patients. The patients, too, will be equally benefitted through communicating with the doctors avoiding a lot of usual hassles of physically seeing a doctor as also saving cost and time. Though the telemedicine service has been around for some time in the country, the people in general are neither well aware about the services, nor do they take it seriously even if some of them did come to know of those. Fortuitously, the covid-19 pandemic has been instrumental in creating a condition for the public to be familiar with it and make use of its easily accessible service.

In the present situation, it is important that more people come to know about this IT-based medical advisory service operating both at the government and the private levels so that they may access its service. To this end, the media can play a role to popularise it, while the service providers themselves need to gear up efforts towards effective publicity. The government, on its part, should extend its support to this emerging health service sector by facilitating telephonic as well as internet connectivity besides making it user-friendly and affordable.

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