The global pandemic wreaked havoc across countries and posed a grave challenge to the healthcare industry. While it highlighted the gaps in our healthcare system, it also provided with an opportunity to innovate and improve. Though not novel, telemedicine is one such innovative technique which promises to offer the necessary medical consultation service to patients when in-person consultation with the doctor is not feasible.
During the second wave of the pandemic, doctors and healthcare professionals struggled to tackle a huge surge in Covid-19 cases. It was visibly hard for the doctors to provide care to each of the patient. The challenge of consulting a doctor or availing basic necessary medical care still roams around inthe minds of the people. Telemedicine precisely aims to bridge this gap. It allows the patient to consult a doctor virtually and get the necessary medical consultation. The evolution of telemedicine as a growing sector establishes the fact that everyone needs an easy and affordable access to healthcare. It also gives an opportunity to the patient to connect to a medical practitioner, saving valuable time and money.
As of today, our nation is gearing up to put its health infrastructure in place to handle any new eventuality. We witnessed how thinly stretched the healthcare system was with huge number of cases being reported throughout the country. Essential items like oxygen and paracetamol were scarce in the market. Fear had started to set in people and in such a situation, people refrained from going to doctors to avoid the risk of COVID-19 exposure and vice versa.
Imagine the situation in regions like Jammu and Kashmir, where the access to healthcare is even more limited with sparsely located and inefficiently manned health centres, and people are not much aware about the services of Telemedicine. Yet there is a Jammu based start-up making waves by providing digital healthcare services to the common man.
O-Health is a Jammu based healthcare startup which is aiming to connect the remote areas of J&K with the medical expertise of the country. “O-Health is a first of its kind telemedicine service in Jammu and Kashmir which provides audio-visual consultation to the people. Unlike other tele-health providers, O-Health needs no user registration, no visit to the website or even an application download, thus, making it very easy for even a non-tech person to avail our service. This has been done with the focus to serve rural patients who are relatively less handy with technology”, said Arunoday Singh, the founder of O-Health. Anyone can use this platform by a simple phone call to O-Health from where patient will receive a link for a video call with the doctor. To ensure better quality consultations, doctors from various specialisations are available for consultation. Patients can see the name and details of the doctor while the call is on. They can also view the medical registration number of the doctor, adding to complete transparency to the consultation procedure as per the Telemedicine guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, Govt. of India. “WHO prescribed allopathic doctor to patient ratio is 1:1000, which in India is 1:10,000, making telemedicine an essential tool to help our doctors reach out to the maximum number of patients possible”, said the founder.
At the time when most of the doctors were finding it hard to connect with their patients due to the pandemic, this service proved as a major boon to the common man. “Not only does O-Health provide patient care services through a helpline, it also gives post-consultation assistance including digital prescriptions and follow-up check ups. We provided numerous consultations in J&K from COVID-19 expert doctors based out of Delhi during the second wave”, said Arunoday Singh.
During the pandemic, O-Health gave 300+ consultations to COVID-19 patients throughout the country where most of the patients were from J&K. Given that many did not know how to deal with the situation, this startup was able to give the necessary assistance to people ranging from reviewing their dosage to avoid overuse, to helping them deal with stress and anxiety.
With a threat of a potential third wave still looming around the corner, the healthcare sector is preparing to do its best with such startups and O-Health is also gearing up to increase its presence by building up its capacity by adding more specialists and local doctors to provide consultations to both COVID and Non-COVID patients.
“Bracing for a post pandemic world, to ensure sustainability in our working model, we plan to operate on a low cost service setup aimed at servinghigh number of patients and having a sustainable market share. With on-going system upgradation, we are prepared for better service delivery and provide people with easy and quick access to healthcare”, said Arunoday.
In an age where people manage all aspects of life online, we can say that telemedicine is no more the future rather the present. This kind of health service still is a developing market in India despite the advantages that it has. With start-ups like O-Health, there is a ray of hope for people to get affordable and accessible healthcare, especially the rural inhabitants, which hardly have adequate health facilites around them. The growth of telemedicine in an year itself shows promising results in the field of medicine. While telemedicine opened a new world for new age medical care, it is yet to establish itself as the new normal for medical consultations in India.