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Image Credit_ Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
 
 
Telemedicine's time has come

Sixth and concluding part of our series on Telemedicine technologies that have matured during the Covid-19 shutdowns.
August 4 2020: Telemedicine is a tool with promise and potential in a nation where the ratio of doctors to patients is 1:1456 for a population of 135 crores, according to the Economic Survey 2019-20… not quite attaining the WHO’s recommendation of 1 doctor for every 1000 citizens.  It grew, slowly if steadily – till the Covid-19 crisis, propelled it into a  fast track.
State after state turned telemedicine to address the medical emergency:
- Karnataka took help from a startup, CloudPhysician, to create a tele-ICU to remotely monitor Covid-9 wards through real-time video and sensors.
- Odisha put in place an app, Sachetak to keep tabs on the vulnerable elderly.
- The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) developed an app, e-Sanjeevani, that many states deploy to treat non-Covid patients who were left out in the urgency to treat Covid cases.  
- Over 100 hospitals, healthcare portals, medicare startups and investors in India, have joined in a unique partnership to create Swasth, a telemedicine platform whose first priority is to fight Covid-19. The platform and its associated app, will offer free online consultations, home quarantine help, diagnostics, hospital bed finding and booking at subsidised prices, as well as an e-pharmacy.
Swasth is backed by a non-profit consortium of over 70 health-sector players and 200 volunteers including hospital groups like Apollo, Columbia Asia, Manipal and Medanta; online health companies like Cure.Fit, Call Health, 1 MG and Practo; insurance aggregators like PolicyBazar and the Indian Council of Medical Research. 
Medical sector experts believe, that an inflection point  for telemedicine, was crossed recently. Normalcy may well return in the months ahead, but for millions of Indians the attraction of e-health has been driven home (literally!), overcoming the challenge and cost of going to clinics and hospitals unless unavoidable. The ‘new normal’ may well see a healthy mix of in-person and virtual healthcare.  
Telemedicine’s time has come – and the time is now - ANAND PARTHASARATHY

This story appears as part of the cover feature by Anand Partasarathy, in the August 2020 issue of Science Reporter , the monthly  popular science publication of CSIR.  Find full cover story PDF here)