Telemedicine has long been seen as a promising concept, but it has yet to become widely adopted in India. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated its implementation and highlighted its potential. With the rise of work-from-home culture, telemedicine has become a convenient and accessible way for individuals to receive healthcare remotely. Dr. Sabahat S. Azim, the Founder and Chairman of Glocal Healthcare Systems, explains how hospitals have successfully utilized telemedicine to improve efficiency and connect with specialists. While telemedicine has been commonly used in urban areas for non-emergency health conditions, its real impact lies in delivering primary healthcare to rural India.
Currently, 80% of doctors in India reside in urban areas, serving only one-third of the population. This leaves a significant portion of the population, particularly those in villages and urban slums, relying on unqualified healthcare providers or facing high medical expenses. Telemedicine offers a solution to this disparity by allowing doctors in cities to serve rural populations from the comfort of their own homes. It also provides opportunities for doctors who may not have the means to pursue higher studies or are facing an oversupply of qualified doctors in urban areas.
Recognizing the potential of telehealth, the Indian government has developed eSanjeevani, the world’s largest documented telemedicine platform for primary healthcare. This platform leverages existing public health infrastructure and doctors to provide remote healthcare services to over 114 million patients. However, there remains a shortage of specialist doctors, with an 80% shortfall in availability. To address this, several state governments have partnered with the private sector to utilize telehealth technology and workforce. For example, Andhra Pradesh has implemented e-PHCs in collaboration with e-Vaidya, while Odisha and Madhya Pradesh have used digital dispensaries and telemedicine for primary healthcare and specialist consultations.
While there are challenges such as unreliable power, poor internet connectivity, and a lack of trained workforce, efforts are being made to overcome these obstacles. Significant investment in marketing, customer education, and behavior change is required to build acceptance towards remote health solutions. Nonetheless, with continued government support, telemedicine has the potential to revolutionize healthcare in India by ensuring universal health coverage and improving access to quality care for all.
– Dr. Sabahat S. Azim, Founder and Chairman of Glocal Healthcare Systems
– Indian government’s eSanjeevani telemedicine platform