Telemedicine is rapidly growing and is expected to be worth about $130.5 billion by the year 2025, according to a study by Global Market Insights. The reason telemedicine is considered a viable option is because it can reach formerly underserved areas like rural regions, and also reach patients in homes. Healthcare options provided remotely through telecommunications networks may increase reach to those with limited or no access to healthcare services. One example of a successful telemedicine initiative is the European Patient Smart Open Services (epSOS) project, launched by the European Union to develop telemedicine services across member states.
Telemedicine in Developing Nations
Even though the requirements of telemedicine applications for developing nations is more demanding as compared to developed nations, it can help bridge the gap in healthcare access. Developing nations usually have a low patient-doctor ratio, few specialists, and rural populations in need of healthcare. In such a scenario, telemedicine applications can help these countries reach far-flung areas and rural regions receive medical care. However, the implementation of telemedicine initiatives needs a thorough investigation of social, organizational, and technical aspects in developing countries. Developing countries can identify goals and develop projects to achieve one or more of these goals. For example, goals could include remote diagnosing, teleconsulting systems, remote monitoring systems, remote intervention systems, remote education systems, etc. Factors to consider while deploying telemedicine products include the country, resources required, locations, infrastructure, organization, project effectiveness and innovation.
Global Telemedicine Initiatives
In America, telemedicine is aiming to solve the challenges of geography, temperate climate, and topography with data-driven approaches. Through telehealth technologies, the US aims to bring healthcare to all locations and regions. In the US, remote patient monitoring is much higher compared to other countries that have better healthcare systems. Remote patient monitoring is an emerging field that combines interconnected equipment and data analytics applications, allowing for high-quality care of patients outside typical clinical settings. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is using telemedicine to serve veterans across the country. It is the largest telehealth programme in the US, with 700,000 veterans participating in telehealth services. It has served patients from urban Houston to rural Idaho using tablets, desktops, smartphones, delivered diagnostic metrics using the internet and offered about 50 clinical specialties. Some notable initiatives using telehealth include telepsychiatry services by Westchester Medical Center Health in New York’s Hudson Valley, Avera eCARE’s virtual hospital and Northwell Health, that is using telehealth to help treat behavioural health and stroke care. These initiatives have helped in the reduction of costs and an increase in efficiency, which proves that telehealth can help countries achieve their healthcare goals with increased effectiveness.
How Telemedicine Can Help Achieve UHC in India
The Ayushman Bharat scheme, touted to be the largest government-funded health scheme in the world, aims to strengthen health systems, improve access to free medicines; diagnostics and reducing catastrophic healthcare spending in India. According to Union Health Minister JP Nadda, “India firmly believes in the objective of attainment of the highest possible level of health – a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The government is already working with the private sector to provide healthcare through telemedicine in rural areas. Apollo Remote Healthcare, an offshoot of integrated healthcare delivery system of Apollo hospitals, is serving about 50 prominent cities in India and has a wide network with services in 22 nations. Under the Digital India initiative, Apollo Remote Healthcare has its presence in 60,000 villages and provides patient-centric care to everyone accessing the services. The services it offers include Tele- Emergency, Tele-ICU, Tele-Condition Management along with regular services like Tele-Consults, Tele-Radiology, Tele-Cardiology, etc. The initiative is also using technologies like ICT, Machine Learning, AI to reduce healthcare costs, improve access, provide efficient services, and customize services. Remote healthcare initiatives can strengthen primary healthcare services and bridge gaps in distance, socio-economic status, and environmental conditions and help achieve UHC in India.