Online medical platforms witnessed a remarkable boom at the beginning of this year with the spread of the novel coronavirus and the imposed home quarantine and social distancing. Therefore, this pandemic was like a “silver platter” for those platforms, as the turnout increased at an unprecedented rate due to the patients having a difficulty accessing doctors’ clinics and hospitals, which in turn focused on “telemedicine” in compliance with the precautionary measures.
Today, much of the health sector investments in various countries of the world are being employed in “digitization” and virtual healthcare because of its active role and several advantages that have evolved more during coronavirus. Patients and doctors have realized the danger of the virus and have accepted the idea of communicating remotely to face this danger and avoid waiting in clinics and hospitals, as well as the difficulty in getting an appointment and transportation problems. Doctors, health systems and hospitals in general, around the world are competing to adopt virtual treatment methods that avoid human contact.
The novel coronavirus was the reason for lifting all the barriers that were placed in front of virtual healthcare, so online medical platforms were the alternative as they took it upon themselves to book an appointment with the doctor and communicate smoothly with him in various ways and without any complications, whether through video technology or text messages.
Telemedicine and access to virtual healthcare are today a powerful tool to provide the necessary care for patients and maintain their safety and the safety of hospital workers and healthcare providers in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and its rapid spread. During these times, governments realized the importance of these platforms and worked to encourage them in many countries, while some laws and public policies that support their work were issued in line with the changes that occurred in the health sector during the pandemic, as it was necessary to reduce the pressure on the human staff working in hospitals and limit the commute of patients that may expose them to the risk of infection.
These platforms have provided an alternative solution that helped doctors and medical personnel to stay in contact with patients and reduce the burden that the COVID-19 pandemic has created on hospitals and health centers, and adhere to home quarantine. These platforms can be likened to a virtual visit that the patient takes from home to his doctor in order to meet him via video with the aim of facing the increasing coronavirus cases.
The various online medical platforms in all countries of the world were keen to preserve patient privacy and confidentiality through the encrypted messaging system in a way that no one can access it, which is unanimously agreed upon by all the experts and those in charge of this type of platforms.
The platforms that offer consulting services and remote doctor’s appointments provide restrictions and controls for the purpose of privacy and confidentiality, which includes examinations and evaluations of patients and beneficiaries of these services in general and even conversations between the doctor and the patient. This virtual relationship between the doctor and the patient is documented and confidential, just as it happens inside doctors’ clinics, so no one is authorized to have access to it.
The benefits of telemedicine via online medical platforms include:
- Minimizing contact between people and patients, thus reducing the risk of cross-infection that may occur in the crowded waiting rooms.
- Providing the necessary advice and care for those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. These patients as well as seniors should avoid leaving their house as they are the most vulnerable to coronavirus.
- Caring for urgent cases in a timely manner.
- Providing remote consultation for non-emergency cases such as adjusting drug dosage and diet in addition to renewing medical prescription after informing the doctor in details about the patient’s condition.
- The possibility of diagnosing some conditions that suffer from mild symptoms and dealing with them according to priority.
- Urging patients to stay home to limit the risk of coronavirus infection.
- Saving time, effort and hassle of commuting to get to the doctor’s office or hospital.
Use of online medical platforms
Telemedicine might be the new norm after the coronavirus crisis. Although the coronavirus outbreak has fundamentally transformed our lives and communities, however, the pandemic has generated some silver linings, including the widespread adoption of telehealth that has helped to mitigate the risk of community spread by reducing unnecessary hospital visits and ensuring real-time access to medical providers for millions of people around the world. Sometimes, the doctor might need to examine the patient clinically as it would be the only way to determine his medical condition. And if the need arises, the patient must follow precautionary measures while commuting to the doctor’s office, who in turn provides the patient with the necessary protection to do what is needed and then follows up on his condition and supervises it remotely later on.
But what are the main uses of telemedicine currently available through these platforms? Obtaining medical advice and some treatment solutions without the need to leave the house, and perhaps the patients who live in remote areas and villages and need a long time to reach the clinic or hospital are those who benefit the most from these platforms.
When the patient cannot reach his destination, the doctor can extend a helping hand by supervising critical cases and informing the patient or those around him about the appropriate behavior or treatment for his condition, with the ability to follow up on his condition and monitor the patient’s new complications.
Telemedicine through online medical platforms allows the doctor to evaluate the patient’s condition in order to diagnose the disease and detect fluctuations and complications that may occur, so the doctor either modifies his prescription or keeps it as is. Health education and giving the patient the necessary guidance and advice are also at the heart of the use of online medical platforms.