Prayagraj, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh [India]: It’s safe to say that healthcare has been radically transformed by technology over the last few decades and one of the most important developments has been that of telehealth – the ability to access top-quality healthcare remotely without needing to be in physical proximity of the medical professional giving advice. The basic idea is that patients are connected directly to doctors via video call from the comfort of their own home – taking advantage of the communication technology that we’ve seen connect the whole world. Telehealth promises to democratize care by bringing the best of the best into your home no matter where you happen to be in the world.
There is a range of applications where telehealth has been found to be particularly valuable including behavioural health services, chronic disease management and professional consultations – all of which are made much more efficient through remote consultations as opposed to being there in person. In India, for example, there are hundreds of smaller cities in more remote areas where inhabitants simply don’t have access to certain medical specializations or even to routine medical care – purely because of where they live. And it’s not unique to India – we hear these stories from all around the world. Medical care is not readily available, it’s not fully distributed. This is a problem that telehealth can fix.
We’ve heard plenty of these stories here at Sprint Medical We once received a call from a father living in Bhadoi, a small town with limited access to medical care, and he told us about his daughter who had been suffering from chronic kidney disease for 8 years by then. He was desperate to find a good doctor but after having exhausted all his options in their hometown, he was a bit despondent because it seemed that the care he was looking for just didn’t exist where he was. Using our telehealth platform, we were able to connect him with a top nephrologist in Canada by the name of Dr Shobhana who was able to provide world-class care at a very reasonable rate from halfway across the world. This changed everything for the patient as, all of a sudden, they realised that the medical care they so desperately sought was just a phone call away. Their location didn’t matter. This is the power of this technology. It levels the playing field and brings cutting-edge medical care to anyone, anywhere in the world – so that you don’t have to suffer just because of where you happen to be located.
Beyond location, telehealth also tends to lower the cost of medical care because doctors don’t have to cover all the overheads associated with running a physical practice. The service is stripped down to only what really matters and those cost savings are passed on to the patients who so desperately need it. Previously, it would have been unheard to suggest that a patient in a Tier 3 city in India could afford medical advice from a leading doctor in North America, but the innovation in telehealth makes that possible. By removing all the costs in the middle of the process and simply connecting the doctor to the patient directly – the costs become much more reasonable. It really does promise to open up this industry in a way as we’ve never seen before. There is also great feedback from our Doctors Doctorsas it empowers them to do what they all want to do – help people – without all the distractions that a physical office brings with it.
Another unexpected benefit of telehealth has been what it’s doing to reduce the stigma around medical care. For certain conditions, there is an element of shame and embarrassment with going into a public medical centre to seek care – that sometimes gets in the way of doing what’s needed to help the associated condition. Telehealth provides a private opportunity for individuals to seek care without signalling to anyone else that they’re doing so. Doctors have remarked on how much more honest and vulnerable patients are during these digital consultations because they don’t have the social pressure or expectations of people around them. This more authentic experience between doctor and patient is a wonderful thing and means that patients are getting the care they need earlier and more effectively than ever before.
All of these benefits point to why there is so much excitement for this field around the world. Telehealth is breaking down barriers to receiving care and creating a more convenient, efficient and cost-effective experience for everyone involved. Regulators are beginning to get their heads around this new form of medical assistance and as they acknowledge the potential, this industry continues to flourish. It’s fundamentally changing the way we think about medical care and here at Sprint Medical, we couldn’t be more excited and Proudabout it.