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Online Medical Consultation ...

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Summary:

A lot has been achieved in the fields of Tele-Communications and Information Technology and subsequently every other field including Health and Medical Services sector benefited profoundly from this revolution. Health Sector gained efficiency like every other sector but the impact over this sector is not at par with other sectors; partly because the whole sector revolves around Doctor – Patient interaction. Doctors have started harnessing the benefits of this revolution on fronts such as knowledge management, teaching, quick reference, etc. but nothing changed in the way they interact with their patients. At most they would now entertain a Telephonic Consultation provided the patient has visited the doctor recently or if he is supposed to visit him soon. Any doctor will swear by the importance of an in-person consultation to justify the concerns surrounding health and illness. Nevertheless there are certain situations such as seeking second opinion and seeking the right approach for unresolved health problems where alternatives to in-person appointment based consultation can do justice or even excel and outperform the traditional approach. Doctle is primarily geared to cater to these situations.

Traditional Approach:

Strengths:

  1. Doctor can get all the information he needs to find a fruitful approach to the health problem in question from the patient.
  2. He can personally inspect and examine the body of the patient.
  3. He can interact with the attendant and family to know about the circumstances and other relevant details.
  4. He can advise investigations and prescribe treatment.

Quirks:

  1. The doctor has to instantaneously weigh all the possibilities and options and arrive at a solution for the problem.
  2. Normal Out-Patient consultation does not allow the doctor to spend enough time to contemplate over the situation at hand. He has no opportunity to discuss before arriving at a conclusion.
  3. A single doctor’s opinion is prone to bias.
  4. It is prohibitively expensive to seek second opinion and almost impossible in certain countries.
  5. Social stigma associated with approaching a local or known doctor for sensitive issues.

Online Consultation:

(Note: Telephone, Video Conference and Chat based consultations do not necessarily offer these advantages)

Strengths:

  1. Doctor – Patient interaction is broken down into series of correspondence and the doctor has the time and opportunity to think, research and discuss about the problem in question before arriving at a conclusion.
  2. Information can be collected methodically from the patient without burdening the doctor. Patient can take his own required time to remember and compile his problem description.
  3. Doctors living anywhere in the world are now available for consultation. Demand-Supply problems can be mitigated and a doctor can give more time to the patient.
  4. More than one doctor can be involved in solving the case there by reducing bias.
  5. Patient can freely discuss even sensitive issues given the privacy and anonymity offered by Internet.

Quirks:

  1. The doctor cannot inspect or examine the patient for additional clues.
  2. He cannot legally advise any investigations or prescribe any treatment.

Conclusion:

As discussed above, the problems with regular consultation are not relevant to many routine cases but influence the outcome of difficult out-patient cases which require more time from the doctor. Online consultation will have a role to play in providing second opinion where personal one-to-one time is not required and in seeking broad advice from various specialists to untangle stubborn unresolved health problems. It mitigates many known problems with traditional consultation and balances the demand-supply dynamics. More over the problems with online-consultation are less relevant in these situations.

 

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