In order to assure steady and quick medical services as movement of people has been restricted in the 21-day coronavirus lockdown, the government of India has issued a set of guidelines for telemedicine or remote delivery of medical services. The guidelines have been issued by the ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW), in collaboration with NITI Aayog and Board of Governors (BoG) Medical Council of India (MCI).
With the telemedicine guidelines in place, doctors will be able to write prescriptions based on telephonic, textual or video conversations — chat, images, messaging, emails, fax and others. This will allow users to consult certified medical practitioners without going out of the house and reduce the risk of transmission even further.
“Disasters and pandemics pose unique challenges to providing healthcare. Though telemedicine will not solve them all, it is well suited for scenarios in which medical practitioners can evaluate and manage patients. A telemedicine visit can be conducted without exposing staff to viruses/infections in the times of such outbreaks,” the guidelines read.
The telemedicine guidelines have also added the following provisions:
- Only medical practitioners, registered under the IMC Act 1956, are entitled to provide telemedicine consultation.
- The registered medical practitioners (RMP) are allowed to use text, video or audio-enabled solutions for consultations.
- Telemedicine consultations should not be anonymous, both patient and doctor should know each other’s identity.
- RMPs have to verify the patient’s identity by name, age, address, email ID, phone number, registered ID or any other identification.
- RMPs need to be sure about the patient’s age before prescribing any medication. The practitioner can ask for the patient’s age proof if in doubt.
- If the patient initiates the telemedicine consultation then their consent is implied.
- If a physical examination is critical information for consultation, the RMPs should not proceed until a physical examination can be arranged.
All registered medical practitioners (RMP) will have to complete a mandatory course within three years of the release of the guidelines. The online programme has been designed by the Medical Council Of India.
The government has also imposed certain restrictions on the type of medications that can be prescribed based on the type of consultations. For instance, over-the-counter drugs and medicines used for common conditions come under List O and can be prescribed through any mode of consultation, including texts.
There are also certain medicines listed in “List B” that can only be prescribed after a follow-up or in-person consultation. Meanwhile, List A has relatively safe medicine with low potential for abuse. These can be prescribed over video-consultations only and in a follow-up consultation for a refill.
The government has also listed out certain drugs that cannot be prescribed through telemedicine. This includes drugs listed under Schedule X of Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules, and any Narcotics and psychotropic substance listed in the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act of 1985.