May 27, 2020

By – Rajashree Kallapur

A chronic patient’s second home is the hospital. How about bringing that home to home?

With the pandemic that we have been facing for the past few months, the scope for developing telemedicine is growing. But this also means something else for chronic patients like us. It saves us the numerous 3-hour waiting periods at the hospital, it dramatically decreases our exposure to contagious diseases, and it helps us keep track of our health–on our own. I say this with experience.

I have been suffering from chronic rhinosinusitis for last twenty years. I have undergone four surgeries. I still have to visit my ENT frequently. As a matter of luck, when I was in Singapore almost seven years ago, I came across an otoscope with an attached camera. (An otoscope is a device with which ENT doctors look into our ears.) I used the otoscope over these years, but realized only during the lockdown what a blessing it was. I came down with an infection and couldn’t visit the ENT. But with the otoscope I had, I clicked a picture of my ear canal and WhatsApped it to her. In just 10 minutes, my ENT prescribed me the routine set of medicines. This was convenient for both of us. Unlike otherwise, we were at our respective homes, we didn’t have to spend time in the traffic, and my ENT didn’t have to complete the formalities in the hospital (for example, give continuous updates to the receptionist when she was performing a surgery and would be delayed in attending to all the waiting patients). Telemedicine saves time.

It also decreases our exposure to germs (which is especially important given the current scenario). The waiting room in the hospitals need to be frequently sanitized to decrease the spread of contagious diseases. In my case, one of the medicines I have to take for my frequent bouts of infection is steroids. This weakens the overall immune system, making people like me more susceptible to contagious diseases. Going to the hospital and sitting in the waiting room is discouraging. And why do so, when we have alternatives?

When we frequently engage with our doctor using telemedicine, we are also able to keep track of our health. I have saved all the pictures of my ear canal from the year 2012 (after a surgery). The digital records can be easily accessed both by me and my ENT doctor without any extra effort. Telemedicine essentially encourages us to concentrate on our health because it makes the effort to do so smooth.

There are many more advantages to telemedicine that I have not focused on in this blog. It can help hospitals optimize the space they have to treat more serious patients, it can increase the number of patients a doctor sees every day, and it saves hospitals the need to autoclave instruments.

Zooming out of my experience, telemedicine can also have advantages on a larger scale. Imagine having a nurse in villages who is trained in administering the first level of treatment and communicating with the doctor remotely. It can be a big help to rural patients who cannot visit cities. This is an oversimplification, of course; there are many caveats we are yet to consider.

Yet, I believe telemedicine has the potential to grow, especially during this pandemic. It, of course, will be a boon to chronic patients like me. I hope to see its growth in other spheres of medical services as well.

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