80% of all the 5 million users that came in from online consultations on Practo between March to May were using telemedicine for the first time. Practo saw a 500% growth in online consultations in the period. About 7.5% of all consultations were for COVID-19 related symptoms.
50% of all consults for general physicians, which saw a 200% jump, were for coronavirus.
Even for consults to general physicians, 70% were sought by men, and only 30% were sought by women. In fact, across specialities, women accounted for less than a third of all patients seeking teleconsults. At most, women accounted for 35% of all teleconsults for orthopedics.
ENT teleconsults on the platform grew even further, as people become vigilant for sore throats and nasal congestions. While most conditions can be treated based via teleconsults, “for those that require endoscopy or procedures, teleconsultation helps with initial examination and triaging”. Even the Telemedicine Guidelines place the onus on the doctor to decide whether a teleconsultation will suffice, or if an in-person review is needed, based upon factors such as complexity of the patient’s situation, whether he/she can identify the patient, among other things.
Government’s telemedicine guidelines
The Health Ministry in March-end notified the Telemedicine Guidelines 2020, laying down norms for an industry that has so far operated in a regulatory grey area. This was within a week of Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring the Janta Curfew against the COVID-19 pandemic, where he said that people should simply consult doctors over the phone instead of visiting them. Doctors can now consult patients via phone, video, and chat applications including telemedicine platforms and WhatsApp. The guidelines, formulated by NITI Aayog, were notified under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette, and Ethics Regulation, 2002).