By Qurrat-ul-Ain Kamal
With the outbreak of COVID-19 all over the world, all Government officials have imposed lock down in the country to control the spread of the virus. These closures have also included outpatient departments of all hospitals and private clinics, which led to many citizens experiencing uncertainty and panic about their health. To help mitigate some of these issues, every country of the government has introduced the concept of online medical consultation due to the severity of COVID-19. By introducing the concept of online medical consultation, many countries including United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, and India have introduced the latest apps for it.
The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) partnered with InstaCare, an enterprise in Pakistan that has received business development support services through USAID’s Small and Medium Enterprise Activity (SMEA), and launched the InstaCare Corona Response Unit (ICRU) to provide free online medical consultations.
Initially, 12 team members at InstaCare volunteered to ensure that healthcare services remained accessible despite the lockdowns, and within 10 days of the launch of the ICRU free services, the response from citizens was overwhelming. InstaCare had to call in more volunteer doctors and medical students to provide free online medical consultations. Today, there are more than 300 doctors providing medical consultations through ICRU.
InstaCare has also partnered with several government and private institutions to enable them to provide telemedicine services to the general public. One key such collaboration is with the Khyber Medical University and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to launch telemedicine in KPK (link is external). As a result of this partnership, Khyber Medical University, which is a leading medical institute in Peshawar, established a telemedicine center with 50+ doctors to offer free online medical consultations in KP. The Governor of KP has also promoted this initiative on his Twitter handle.
People have been switching to online for medical consultation, with healthcare infrastructure in India coming under immense pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. There has been a 500 per cent growth in online medical consultations between March-May 2020, healthcare aggregator Practo said in a report. While 50 million Indians accessed healthcare through telemedicine during the lockdown period, 80 per cent of all users were first-timers.
It is to be noted that medical infrastructure has come under extreme stress across the world, more so in India, which is witnessing a severe rise in coronavirus cases and hospitals being turned into isolation wards. “Covid-19 has been stretching healthcare systems across the world, as nations deal with the rising number of cases while trying to bring down the mortality rates. In the ensuing lockdown, state and central governments have embraced telemedicine as one of the main health and wellness strategies.
Many in China have tried online medical platforms during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the providers of free remote consultation are hoping to further boost their business even after the pandemic is over. Dr. Wan Jun works in a public hospital in Beijing. He’s one of over 50,000 doctors offering free consultation related to the new coronavirus on (WeDoctor) a private medical care platform for two months now.
Online medical services are not new in China. They were also not the first choice for many before the COVID-19 outbreak. But some platforms have seen an exponential increase in traffic during the public health emergency. Whether this trend will continues after the epidemic is a concern for these providers.
Over the past two months, some online medical platforms have seen a tenfold increase in visitors and registered users. Some are even taking the chance to extend their services worldwide. WeDoctor launched its overseas platform against COVID-19 last Saturday. It has since received 6.8 million visits and provided free consultations to over 24,000 users from 22 countries.
Top Doctors, a leading provider of online services for the private medical sector, today announced that it will make its e-Consultation service available for free to all medical professionals throughout the UK for the next two months. The service connects leading doctors and healthcare specialists with patients, providing real time medical advice, and helping to reduce congestion at a time when hospitals and medical centers are postponing regular health check-ups and appointments.
Using the e-Consultation platform, patients will be able to make appointments and get advice from leading medical specialists at any time, via a private messaging or video conference service; all available 24/7, 365 days per year. E-Consultation is fully encrypted and GDPR-compliant, meaning doctors can guarantee their patients’ data will remain secure from fraudsters and cybercriminals, unlike mainstream chat platforms. Any medical professional can request access to the platform, and in recent weeks, user requests have dramatically increased due to the pressure healthcare providers are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the UK alone, user requests on the service have increased 466% vs the beginning of March as more patients adhere to social distancing rules.