In the Lancet’s Healthcare Quality and Access Index, India ranked 145th out of 195 countries. With a doctor to patient ratio below, the WHO recommended benchmark of 1:1000, lack of access to quality medical opinion had been a persisting issue in India.
But in the digital age, when almost every type of service is available online, why should healthcare remain behind? With technological advances, you can access medical opinions from across the globe. You can get yourself diagnosed and treated for several ailments without having to take up the hassle of visiting the doctor’s chamber physically.
Though it may sound a little surprising, the development of web-based technologies like telemedicine and mobile health (Mhealth) have made this dream a possibility. Thirty-year-old Sayan, an insurance advisor by profession, realised it when acute dehydration took a toll on his body, barely allowing him to move out of his bed.
After returning from office the previous day, Sayan was feeling uncomfortable. The reason was obvious. With the mercury rising steadily, Bhopal was in the grip of a heatwave, and the local administration had advised precautionary measures for residents. However, Sayan’s daily schedule involved a lot of fieldwork, visiting clients. Due to overexposure, he fell victim to the intense heat and his body was losing water at alarming levels. His family doctor was out of station for attending a medical seminar, and Sayan was too weak to make it to the clinic of other physicians.
His mother was visibly worried when the doorbell rang. As she opened the door, she was greeted by Vihan, Sayan’s best friend. The worried face of Sayan’s mother was enough for Vihan to understand that something was wrong. Upon seeing Vihan, Sayan’s mother couldn’t control her emotions and tears started rolling down her cheek.
Vihan consoled her, and upon learning Sayan’s condition, he immediately ran into his room. On seeing his best friend down and out, Vihan immediately took out his smartphone and began talking with somebody on a video call. He also made some notes and went out in haste. Before Sayan and his mother could understand something, Vihan was back with some medicines, including ORS.
He asked Sayan to take them immediately, and within a couple of hours, Sayan started feeling a little better. In a low and thin voice, he enquired Vihan about the entire episode. Assured by the improved condition of his friend, Vihan said he was consulting a doctor through an app. The medicines were prescribed by the physician for curing heatstroke and dehydration.
Taken a little aback, Sayan asked if it was indeed possible to get treated for a condition like dehydration online. Vihan chuckled. Perhaps he knew Sayan would ask him this question. Moving closer to Sayan, he showed him the app, and Sayan’s joys knew no bounds. He observed that the app allowed instant medical consultation for conditions like dehydration, diarrhoea, fever and insect bites, among others.
Vihan also told him that the app would soon have an updated version. It would allow live medical consultation for ailments ranging from common conditions like nausea, pink eye, sore throat to advanced complications like respiratory problems. While both friends were amid a discussion, Sayan’s mother came in with some snacks. She couldn’t thank Vihan enough for the timely intervention.
A smiling Vihan asked Sayan to download the app on his phone, too and use it when required. As he took some snacks, he had a word of caution for Sayan. He always advised him to remain hydrated and consume a lot of fluid. Sayan nodded in affirmative with a smile on his face. He made a mental note to educate his friends and relatives about this excellent service on the next available opportunity.