Hospitals put in place video consultations, tele-ICUs to ensure continuity of medical care

As the coronavirus contagion grows and lockdown orders make visits to clinicians difficult, hospitals are putting in place video consultations, tele-ICUs and virtual in-house meetings to ensure continuity of medical care and minimise spread of infection.

On Wednesday, the health ministry issued guidelines on telemedicine. By then, top hospitals like Max Healthcare, Fortis, Manipal and Aster Hospitals had rolled out video consultations.

Telemedicine refers to use of information technology to provide healthcare advice to people remotely. The guidelines say the system can be useful in crises like the coronavirus outbreak, which has necessitated social distancing to contain its spread.

Practo, a digital healthcare platform, now has 2,500 doctors on teleconsult, up from about 250 before the coronavirus outbreak. Alexander Kuruvilla, its chief health strategy officer, told ET that about 55% of all queries on teleconsult are now about Covid-19.

The number of top and mid-level hospitals approaching Practo to have their doctors on the platform has jumped two-and-half times in the last two months, he said.

Dilip Jose, managing director of Manipal Health Enterprises, said, “In the last two-three days, 3-4 senior people from IT and tech companies reached out saying they are willing to support in managing technical capabilities.”

Harish Pillai, CEO – India, Aster DM Healthcare, said the group is making investments to strengthen its IT system, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and cloud computing abilities.

Max Hospitals is using AI to augment diagnostic outcomes in radiology, said Prashant Singh, its director for IT.

In an effort to contain the spread of infection, hospitals are not allowing more than one attendant with each patient, strictly enforcing strict social distancing norms, and have separate pathways and protocol for those suspected of having Covid-19.

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Manipal Health Enterprises’ Jose also said that while patients are being discouraged to come for elective treatment, doctors are left to figure out what is elective or not.

At Fortis Memorial Research Hospital in Gurgaon, doctors can monitor isolation wards and ICUs remotely. “For Covid patients who might need dialysis, we have a separate dialysis machine in the isolation ward,” said Ritu Garg, zonal director of the hospital.

Aster Hospitals has launched a 24×7 Covid-19 support centre.

Practo, too, has a section where people can get advise on whether they need to get a Covid-19 test or not, and directs them to centres where they can get the tests done.


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