Telemedicine Clinics: Bridging the Healthcare Gap
By Shine Humanity
Nov 13, 2023
Unfortunately, the rural population of Pakistan faces multiple healthcare challenges. Getting easy access to medical facilities is one of them. In most rural communities, healthcare services are limited. People need to travel long distances, which requires time and cost. Most importantly, they find it difficult to spend significant time away from their workplaces, which results in losing their daily wages.
Telemedicine clinics play a vital role in resolving this issue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when meeting others was risky, the telemedicine service became common. After observing its positive outcomes, many such initiatives were taken to facilitate the population of rural and remote areas.
Let us explain this service in detail and shed light on how it can assist in improving the healthcare system:
What is a Telemedicine Clinic?
It refers to a service that uses technology to provide healthcare consultations remotely. With the help of video conferencing, patients can connect with healthcare providers no matter where they are located. A high-quality video helps in viewing the signs of the disease and providing accurate medical care.
Besides this, it involves the use of health apps to view the medical records of patients and give follow-up appointments. Due to the advancement in technology, the concept of telemedicine is gaining popularity with each passing day.
Application Areas of Telemedicine
Here is how telemedicine can help in multiple scenarios:
Patients with Disability
Disabled people find it more difficult to get healthcare services when a nearby option is not available. The cost of an ambulance is unbearable, and travelling from one place to another is a huge challenge. Likewise, the elderly and culturally isolated groups face challenges when it comes to healthcare. With access to a telemedicine clinic, they can easily get the service from their nearby camp or medical health station.
In conditions where a patient needs treatment from multiple specialists, coordination through a telemedicine clinic can help in getting effective treatment. Since the rural population is unable to visit multiple doctors and bear the cost, they can get the right treatment from a single platform. This facility is also an opportunity for medical health providers who wish to volunteer but do not have time due to their demanding schedules.
Also, for school-going children, long-distance travelling is a hurdle. Thankfully, many rural areas now have schools. These schools can coordinate with doctors to provide healthcare facilities through telemedicine clinics to their students. It will result in spreading awareness and teaching students about self-care, hygiene, and preventive measures to stay safe from germs and illnesses.
Even if the patient travels a long distance, many issues like overdosage, side effects, shortage of medicines, or other problems may arise after starting the treatment. These patients from rural areas, who somehow manage to visit the healthcare provider, cannot visit repeatedly. Thus, problems arise due to fragmented care. With a telemedicine clinic, they can coordinate with the doctor and learn about the changes in medications.
Controlling Contagious Diseases
When patients have access to healthcare services, they can learn about the preventive measures in case of having a contagious disease. It can help in reducing the number of cases of vector-borne diseases, infections, skin diseases, etc.
How Telemedicine Clinics Work
The literacy rate in rural areas is low, with only a few knowing the use of computers and smartphones. That is why a primary healthcare physician is needed to set up a telemedicine clinic. This physician coordinates with the specialist through video conferencing to know the detailed treatment plan. The primary healthcare provider may also use a high-quality camera to take images of visible symptoms if needed.
In this way, patients can also directly coordinate with the expert physician, ask questions and clear doubts.
How Telemedicine Resolves the Issue of Physician Shortage
Telemedicine enables specialty physicians to consult remotely. It enables them to save travelling time and utilize the time in treating other patients. They do not need to set up separate units for serving patients from different areas, which is, again, a time-consuming and expensive procedure.
Apart from this, treating the rural population besides the urban makes them aware of how diseases are spreading in certain areas. Some highly devoted physicians connect with healthcare NGOs and take a stand to address epidemics.
If needed, they even train a group of individuals who are then sent to the rural areas to spread awareness, conduct diagnostic testing, and give medical aid.
Telemedicine is Not a Complete Alternative to Hospitals
Undoubtedly, telemedicine helps in treating thousands of patients who would otherwise be deprived of basic healthcare services. However, it cannot eradicate the need to develop hospitals and medical health clinics in rural areas.
With telemedicine, specialists can treat basic illnesses and conduct routine checkups. However, there are many emergency cases where specialized hospital equipment is required. These are cases of surgical procedures, neonatal care, and conditions that require scans like MRI, CT scans, X-rays, etc.
How to Enhance the Overall Healthcare System of Rural Areas?
We need a good combination of hospitals and telemedicine clinics to build a strong healthcare system in rural and remote areas. Hospitals alone cannot cater to the needs of the growing population. Telemedicine can serve as a helpful tool to address basic healthcare issues and assist in follow-up check ups once the lab tests have been done.
Shine Humanity’s Telemedicine Clinic
In 2019, Shine Humanity took a step to serve the underserved population of Tando Hyder. We opened our telemedicine clinic in the Hyderabad District, where a physician connects the patients to a specialist after the initial screening. This move made it possible for thousands of people to access quality healthcare.
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