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Regulatory Guidelines for Doctors Practising Telemedicine

The coronavirus pandemic initiated a sea change across sectors almost overnight. And one such practice that exponentially burgeoned was that of telehealth. One of the main objectives of telemedicine is to ensure that healthcare facilities are uncluttered, while at the same time ensuring that every individual can access healthcare across locations and even in remote places. 

Through your telemedicine practice, patients can consult with you over voice calls, video or text, allowing you to prescribe medicines over specific conditions. This comfortable and efficient delivery of medical services that has come into play with the coronavirus lockdown got a further impetus thanks to the new guidelines for the remote delivery of medical services. In collaboration with the Board of Governors, the Medical Council of India and NITI Aayog, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) has laid down new directives on how telemedicine will have to be processed going forward.

New Rules for Telemedicine

And while it is the ideal time for doctors to begin a telemedicine practice, knowing about the regulatory instructions designated by the government is crucial. 

According to the guidelines, there are unique challenges afflicting healthcare from the risk of pandemics and disasters. And while telemedicine will not be a panacea for all health conditions, it is ideally suited for situations where doctors can swiftly assess and manage their patients. In times of outbreaks, telemedicine visits can be conducted without exposing doctors and patients to infections or viruses.

Here are some salient features of the regulatory road map:

  • Only those medical practitioners that are registered under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 are entitled to offer consultation through telemedicine.

  • Registered medical practitioners are permitted to employ audio-enabled solutions, video-enabled systems and text processes in discussions.

  • Both patient and doctor must reveal one another’s identity to avoid unknown telemedicine consolidations.

  • Registered medical practitioners must verify the identity of the patient through name, age, email ID, address, phone number, registered ID and other forms of identification.

  • Registered medical professionals must also be cognizant concerning the age of the patient before prescribing medication. If the doctor is doubtful of the patient’s age, proof of age by the patient must be provided.

  • If the patient begins the consultation via the telemedicine platform, the patient’s permission is assumed and taken into account.

  • If the treatment involves examining the patient physically, which means physical test results could provide crucial information for the consultation, the registered medical practitioner must not proceed with the discussion until the health examination can be arranged and administered.

  • For medical practitioners to begin a telemedicine practice, they must complete the mandatory course within three years of the release of the guidelines. The Medical Council of India has designed a unique online programme with relevant course material for medical practitioners.

Besides, the government has also restricted the prescription of specific medications based on the kind of consultation. 

For example, medicines that fall under the over-the-counter category and are typically used for common conditions will be listed under ‘List O’ that can be prescribed through all or any mode of consultation, including texts. 

On the other hand, specific medications listed under the category ‘List B’ can only be prescribed after the patient has had an in-person consultation with the doctor or a follow-up.

Types of medication that fall under the category ‘List A’ are regarded as safe with low potential for misuse. Registered medical practitioners can prescribe medicines falling under this category over video consultations only. The drugs can also be prescribed as a refill in a follow-up consultation. 

Additionally, the government has also instituted a list of certain medications that cannot be administered or prescribed by the doctor through telemedicine. This includes medicines that are listed under any narcotics or psychotropic substances mentioned in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985 and under Schedule X of Drugs and Cosmetic Act and Rules.

The code of conduct and guidelines introduced by the Government of India and the Board of Governors is indeed a massive step in giving telemedicine practice in India a legal and approved status. By covering every aspect of the development, the Board of Governors is also tasked with the responsibility of:

  • Amending the guidelines if needed.

  • Issuing the list of drugs under the guidelines.

  • As and when required, the Board of Governors will also issue new announcements, interpretations and directions regarding the guidelines pertaining to telemedicine.

How Telehealth Can Ensure a Successful Practice

Having a sustainable virtual care programme through the right telehealth solution will not only help in enhancing your practising strategy, financial health and patient experience, it can also determine your position in the market through the right programme. 

Following the guidelines laid down by the government, and completing the three-year course can be a handy arsenal and the right step towards the future of the medical practice. With the precise telehealth device and system, based on your profile, you will be able to emphasise on enhanced patient outcomes and improved value-based reimbursement. 

A one-stop shop telehealth device or a personal online clinic can connect you to your patients, healthcare systems, third-party software applications and more on a single platform. Having all the features, you need to run your practice on a single platform that can ensure seamless operations.

Fresh Frontiers

Given the new telemedicine guidelines, the medical fraternity will now be able to prescribe and treat their patients based on video conversations, text and telephone through online messaging, chat, images, emails and so on. 

This helpful development will permit your patients to consult you and other certified medical practitioners without stepping out of the house, thus reducing the risk of transmission to a great extent.

Instituting these guidelines is the start of a new era for medicine in India. Hereon, patients may no longer have to travel to your clinic or your area of practice but consult with you online in private and in the safety of their homes since it can be a hassle for patients to wait in long queues and consult with their doctors for small health issues. 

By paving the way for consultations to be practised through new forms of communications—while safeguarding the interest of the patient—the latest regulatory guidelines have ensured that remote access to medicine has now become a reality.