The Indian government’s telemedicine platform eSanjeevani has completed 300,000 consultations, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. 200,000 consults were completed on August 19, and another 100,000 have been completed within a few weeks.
eSanjeevani offers two kinds of consults: patient-to-patient and doctor-to-doctor. Doctor-to-doctor consultations were rolled out in November last year, as part of the Ayushman Bharat Health & Wellness centre program, with the aim being to offer teleconsults in all 1.5 lakh HWCs by December 2022. With the COVID-19 pandemic picking up in India, and the subsequent notification of the telemedicine guidelines, doctor-patient consults were rolled out in April.
The platform has been rolled out in 23 states, with Tamil Nadu accounting for over 97,000 consults, and Uttar Pradesh at over 65,000 consults. Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have conducted over 30,000 consults, and Kerala has conducted over 28,000 consults.
The coronavirus pandemic has become a watershed for telemedicine. It spurred the government to identify a burgeoning industry and regulate what had operated in a regulatory grey area for years. Now, one of the main components of the Indian government’s National Digital Health Mission will be teleconsultations.
eSanjeevani OPD was among the five teleconsultation services which was available on the now-defunct Aarogya Setu Mitr portal. Launched as an ancillary service on the Indian government’s contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu, the portal aggregated government and private entities offering COVID-19 teleconsultations, delivery of medicines, and home sample collection for lab tests. It was launched as a public-private partnership facilitated by the government’s Principal Scientific Advisor and NITI Aayog, with “voluntary participation” from organisations, industry coalitions, and startups.
However, in response to a writ petition filed by Delhi-based South Chemists & Distributors Association, the central government suspended the Aarogya Setu Mitr portal in June. The association had alleged that the website acted as a marketing tool for only e-pharmacies, and did not mention the local brick-and-mortar pharmacies. It had sought direction that the name “Aarogya Setu” not be misused to sponsor the commercial interests of “arbitrarily hand-picked entities”.