The latest trend emerging in India among the internet surfers is the use of the Internet for online medical consultations, though the concept is not a new one. With technology advancing every day, with the Internet at our fingertips to get all information, with e-commerce and online shopping on the rise, with the advancement in medical technology, how can the online world be derived of medical consultations? In 1996, WebMD was the first medical consulting website in the US. The concept became more popular in 2000 when the term “Online doctor” emerged to describe physicians and health practitioners who deliver consultation, healthcare over the internet. Soon, a number of websites were launched, dealing with online medical consultations like NIH.gov, MSN Health, Everyday Health, MaYoClinic, WomensHealth.gov etc. In India, the concept has slowly gained popularity in recent years, though it will still take some time to be accepted universally.
List of online medical consultation sites in India
- eVaidya.com: This is a telemedicine technology based system built in order to bring about an effective communication between doctors and patients through different modes like Telephone or Mobile, Video Conference, Chat and Email.
- icliniq.com: A virtual hospital helping more than 1,000 patients almost every day with health issues related to OB/GYN, Psychiatry, Dermatology, Oncology and 70 other specialities, with 600 plus doctors.
- medindia.net: With over 1,000 doctors listed on its panel, this site offers you an online solution to your health problem. But, it does not sell prescription drugs and does not provide an online prescription. The doctors only give advice and recommendation on their effectiveness.
- icliniccare.com: This online site provides general practitioners online for 24 hours through Web or Video chat or written medical advice. It has also collaborated with major hospitals like Fortis Healthcare, Global Hospitals, Max Hospitals, Medica Super Speciality (Kolkata), Nova Speciality Hospitals, Enhance Clinics, among many others, covering all parts of India.
- Ehealthcity.com: A virtual medical world that aims to provide complete care through online healthcare services. An ideal platform for health education, online consultation, personal health record storage and comprehensive care.
- Medanta.org: Medanta, the Medicity, one of India’s largest multi-super speciality institutes in Gurgaon has also started its online medical consultation through video conferencing. All you need to do is to upload your medical reports, consult the doctor through video conferencing using your computer at your convenient timings and then access recommendations, reports and consultation details online.
- webhealthcentre.com: This website provides you consultation facilities online from some of the leading medical institutions and consultants of India. You need to send in your medical queries related to various aspects of your health and these will be answered by the doctors in the various specialities. This service is provided free of charge.
Benefits to doctors
- Doctors have the advantage of practicing anytime and anywhere as per their convenience.
- Can offer services to a large number of patients, residing anywhere in India.
- Deliver more flexibility and provide a higher level of service.
- The constraints of being tied to a single facility or a hospital get eliminated.
- Proper management of the patients’ health needs through online storage of data and other records.
- It minimizes the administrative and other costs as it does not require a front office desk, a receptionist or a doctor’s chamber or a patient’s waiting room.
Benefits to patients
- Get immediate access to physicians and specialists securely and privately.
- Can make a survey of various online sites to choose the best one.
- Can choose doctors not only from his native place but also from anywhere in India. Has also the option of choosing doctors as per his speciality, gender, language, hospital affiliation and even zip code.
- The patient has the advantage of receiving care as per his convenience either by using the Web, live video-conferencing, or phone.
- Reduced costs and time.
- Also the patients can get 24-hour access to doctors’ consultation.
But online medical consultation also has its share of disadvantages.
- Online medical consultations pave the way for selling prescription drugs unethically.
- The patients also do not have many options to evaluate the quality of the online health care practitioners.
- Online consultations are of no use during emergencies or when the physical assistance is needed as in the case of accidents, burns, cuts, wounds etc.
To sum up: It’s too early to say whether online medical consultation will see its boom or not in India like online shopping. It does have its share of advantages and disadvantages. But, with time, people will rely on medical help online. It is time-saving and cost effective. With technology making life simple and easier all across the spectrum, online healthcare will also gain its popularity immensely by the convenience it offers.
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