Hospitals mull offering telemedicine services

Private hospitals in the Sultanate are weighing the pros and cons of offering telemedicine services in a bid to beat the COVID-19 impact.

Accordingly, many hospitals have requested the Department of Private Hospitals at the Ministry of Health (MoH) while others are busy studying the practical side of
the same.

“We have requested the MoH to begin such a service on our premises especially for those suffering from various chronic diseases during this time. This is
even more important at a time when our business has gone ten times lower in the past one month”, head of a leading hospital in Muscat told the Observer.

The branch of medicine called ‘telemedicine’, also known as ‘telehealth’ or ‘e-health’ is the provision of health-related services and information via
electronic information and telecommunication technologies.

The main advantage of this service is that it allows long-distance patients and doctors to get in touch with each other face to face in the virtual world at a click of the
mouse and talk to each other, to care, advise, monitor and if need be, for remote admissions.

Videoconference, digital photography, instant messaging and the like are used to assess patients remotely using or other technology.

The MoH itself is in the process of implementing Tele-Psychiatry Programme for the benefit of the people who are quarantined, isolated or those who are feeling the
pinch of COVID-19 psychological effects.

“We have developed special programs to follow up with the patient and identify the problems that may be experienced through direct contact with him or his
family”, said Doctor Dr. Saleha al Jadidi, Head of Consultant Psychiatry and Geriatrics at Al Masarra Hospital.

“Doctors are available around the clock in case of emergency just as the team is in the process of implementing the ‘TelePsychiatry Programme’ to assist the people who are going through various psychic issues during the Coronavirus lockdown period”, she said.

Studies suggest that specialists who practices telemedicine are using telemedicine the least to interact with patients are emergency physicians (38.8 per cent), pathologists (30.4 per cent), radiologists (25.5), gastroenterologists (7.9), and
allergists/immunologists (6.1 per cent).

“Telemedicine is a very useful technology in these testing times as it enables a real-time interface between the doctor and patient with no physical presence. In at
least non- emergency cases, the patient queries and symptoms can be addressed and treatment prescribed,” opines Dr. Hemant Hardikar, Chief Medical Services,
Aster Al Raffah Hospital.

He believes that it ensures delivery of healthcare to needy patients at their doorstep and continuity of care and business for the clinics or healthcare providers
while achieving the objectives of social distancing and unnecessary exposure of non-emergency cases to the hospital setting.

“One of the benefits of telemedicine is cost-effectiveness because the information is less
expensive to transport than the people. In the current situation of ‘staying at home’, telemedicine is the best practice and in case of any emergency for the elderly population, it is the best way of telecommunication with the nearest health center,” says the representative of Al Salama Hospital.

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