We missed this earlier: Fortis Hospitals has rolled out online consultations using Microsoft Teams — including over the phone and video — in 23 of its hospitals. It claims to have carried out 8,000 consults so far, with 370 daily average consults. 720 doctors are providing online consultations.

Fortis Mohali (Punjab), also second-largest contributor to the hospital chain’s revenue, held the most — 1,539 consults — since the service began. This was followed by Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurgaon, with 1,330 consults; then Fortis Bengaluru with 1,117 consults. Fortis Noida and Fortis Mumbai (Mulund) have done 537 and 290 consults respectively.

E-consults are not done in emergency cases and when doctors need to physically examine the patient. Telemedicine/e-consults are better suited for continuity of post-surgical care for remotely located patients, for chronic disease management, monitoring pregnancies, keeping all such patients as minimum exposure, Fortis said. “A video or telemedicine consult can never be compared to a normal in-hospital consult where the doctor is able to physically examine the patient,” it added.

Patients can request consults on the hospital website/call centre/app, and a payment link is sent to the customer via SMS after confirmation of the appointment. A customer would need a mobile device which can run the Teams app, a stable internet connection, and ability to pay online.

So far, doctors in neurology, gynaecology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, orthopaedics, neurosurgery, paediatrics, nephrology, ENT, mental health and internal medicine are providing online consultations.

Within days of the coronavirus crisis coming to a head in India (and soon after PM Modi advocated telemedicine in a national address), the government notified the Telemedicine Guidelines 2020, laying down norms for an industry that had operated in a regulatory grey area. Doctors can now consult patients via phone, video, and chat applications including telemedicine platforms and WhatsApp.

Read more: A summary of India’s Telemedicine Guidelines 2020