It involves the stages of diagnosis, the prescription and the thorough treatment of the shortcoming. And all this is possible now, in the online avatar.Online advice is however different from online health information. Information provided to the seeker will always be in the form of facts and will not be user-specific. It rather falls under aspects of free speech than advice. It is only health related interactions resulting in the direct benefit of the seeker. Similarly, online medical advice should not be confused with personal advice, even it is concerning medical healthcare.
Online medical advice developed in the recent years, indicating the use of a generation of physicians and health practitioners, and a huge database to prescribe healthcare means and drugs to individuals using the World Wide Web. Internet resources like video-conferences and messages have developed to such an extent, that it is child’s play now, to shift to online physicians giving out advices and drug prescriptions. This innovative piece of technology has not only saved costs involved and convenience and ease of access, but has also led to enhanced privacy during communications online.
Physicians however, do need to utilise their better judgement to make out whether a particular patient should be seen in person, or whether an online consultation will be sufficient. Likewise, some patients feel OK with online advice being provided but then, some prefer the traditional visits where the medicos interact physically with the patients. Exponents of this field debate that there is but significant dissimilarity between quick telephone-based assessments made by doctors for cases requiring emergency attention, and relatively recent e-mail advice seeking and visits, like in case of ‘jungle-medicine’.
Yet again, advocates argue that online advice will not be sufficient or significant enough because it is highly likely that the consultations will be dangerous. Serious diseases might be over-looked because of absence of physical examination. Also, there might be frauds; fraud doctors who are unqualified, but are still giving out treatment, and fraud patients who are using fake pretences to obtain dangerous or banned drugs.
In India there are quite a few companies which allow consumers to access the feature of online medical advice. They have a total span of around one lakh doctors under their umbrella. Millions of monthly interactive sessions are recorded. IT thus provides free communication with doctors, specialist consultation, paid though, audio- and video-calling attributes, and real-time news feed on various medical and health issues.
Apart from the above-mentioned pros of this system, online medical advice has its shortcomings as well. Firstly, there is no physical examination of the patients. Then again, medical jargon and linguistic barriers can oppose the main idea of this system. Also, the communication is totally mechanical, that is, no emotions are involved. So the patients might feel that the service rendered is not up to the mark.All said and done, the advent of online medical advice in the field of healthcare has been a boon to mankind and its numerous problems. What remains to be seen is whether this system can find solutions to all the problems and live up to the expectations. By – Rounak Bose