- YearEnder2020Health: Digital health services demand increased in 2020
- According to WHO, demand for mental health counselling increased in 2020
- Staying connected with the doctor helped patients manage diseases at home
Due to the spread of Covid-19, the health sector was under spotlight throughout 2020. With a wide range of major changes in how things functions, the health sector had to set new norms and guidelines for the patients. The requirement of services at hospitals for Covid-19 patients round the clock made it difficult for people with other health conditions to get access to the right treatment on time. Many also avoided visiting hospitals due to the fear of catching the virus. To bridge this gap between patients and the doctor, teleconsultation came into existence. Digital health services existed earlier as well but it boomed in 2020 as more and more patients across the world needed expertise to manage their chronic or pre-existing conditions when at home.
YearEnder2020Health: The era of healthcare digitalisation
Studies and survey have also highlighted the increase in the number of teleconsultations in 2020. We spoke to Dr. Monica Goel (Consultant Physician) and Dr. Nina Madnani (Dermatologist) from P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC and Dr. Samant Darshi (Psychiatrist) from Psymate to know their real experiences with online consultations, how it helped the patients and the drawbacks.
How teleconsultation has helped patients manage chronic conditions?
Dr. Goel says, "The covid-19 pandemic in 2020 has affected thousands of patients worldwide. To practice social distancing at its best, digital healthcare services came to rescure. Doctors started treating patients with the help of telemedicine keeping all protocols in mind. We as a team consulted more than 500 patients online. These were people suffering from diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism and senior citizens. We carefully screened these patients and helped them manage pre-existing conditions."
"Amidst the pandemic, online mental health services have been hailed as the preferred mode of delivering the required care to the patients. In 2020, telepsychiatry services proved to be ideal for both accessing and disseminating mental health care services and allowed access to care by surpassing geographical boundaries," says Dr. Darshi.
Which issues were the most reported while online consultation?
"The patients were monitored through a video call. Adequate and relevant blood investigations and the radiological tests were also advised and medicines were prescribed based on their tests results. People with conditions like diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism, ischemic heart disease, collagen vascular diseases, neurological issues, fever, flu and episodic headache have been consulted," Dr. Goel tells DoctorNdtv
During the pandemic, major lifestyle changes affected the mental health of individuals which lead to a significant rise in mental health issues. Dr. Darshi tells, "Anxiety, adjustment disorder, panic attack, fear of death, fear of catching the infection, frustration, irritability, sad mood, insomnia and disturbances in daily rhythms are common health concerns which were addressed."
Was online consultation helpful?
"Online consultation somewhere reduced anxiety and the fear of visiting the hospital. This also made beds available for Covid-19 patients and those who were in urgent need and could not be managed at home."
"Many patients would send their questions, reports and case history prior to the consultation which helped the doctor as well. The patients did not have to leave their premises for the environment they were scared of," answers Dr. Goel.
Prasant Mohanty, country manager of Viveo Health which is a digital healthcare platform says, "The digital care has been a significant surge during the Covid-19 times wherein we had a complete lockdown and patients who are suffering from chronic disease like diabetes, hypertension, chronic kidney disease and mental health had a higher need of digital care/virtual care during this period. This helped patients to continue their therapy. This also reduced the crowding at hospitals and indirectly reducing the rate of infection."
The fear of catching the virus
"Patients were happy with online assistance as they feared catching the virus at the hospital. This risk was real as patients like senior citizens, people with long-standing diabetes, those with a weak immune system due to pre-existing conditions and other complicated cases are at a higher risk of Covid-19 complications. So, it was better for them to get treated within their confined homes," she adds.
How often the patients were asked to come to the hospital?
If the patient had severe underlying lung issue or heart-related disease then these patients were advised hospitalisation. We have been visiting the hospital as there were serious cases which needed physical attention, says Dr. Goel.
Drawbacks of online consultations
Dr. Madnani elaborates, "People cannot travel but some condition needed continuous medical attention. Patients largely reported skin issues and stress aggregated the condition. Certain chronic disease like psoriasis or acne triggered and affected the patients severely. But as a dermatologist, it was difficult in some cases as it is crucial to see the skin condition physically. Sometimes patients are also not satisfied unless they meet the doctor in person."
Dr. Goel shares that chronic uncontrolled diabetes was majorly reported. Stress, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet and infrequent blood sugar tests lead to major fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
While, Dr. Darshi tells, "A 26-years-old male after the virus started spreading rampantly began working from home. After some months, his wife noticed some obvious behavioural changes in him like his bathing time increased drastically, he would wash already cleaned clothes and utensils again and again. Soon he began cleaning the entire house repeatedly throughout the day. He stayed distressed across the whole day, he complained of having repetitive, intrusive thoughts about getting infected by a disease and then losing his life. The patient was diagnosed with OCD started on medications and online psychotherapy. He responded well to treatment and is on regular follow-ups now."
Online consultation has its own set of pros and cons but has helped people manage chronic conditions at home during the ongoing pandemic.
(Dr. Monica Goel, Consultant Physician, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC)
(Dr. Nina Madnani is a Dermatologist at P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC)
(Dr. Samant Darshi is a Psychiatrist from Psymate)
(Prasant Mohanty, Country Manager, Viveo Health India Private Limited)
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