The name Robo-doc may sound to you like a Hollywood sci-fi movie that is all set to charm the audience and maybe make many women go gaga over his magnetic robotic personality. But the fact is Robo-doc (Robotic doctor) has descended down to the world of reality and is happily making rounds in a few UK and US hospitals. FDA has approved a RP-Vita, Remote Presence Robot which is equipped with electronic stethoscope, otoscope, ultra sound and a laser pointer for the physician. The face of the Robot consists of a monitor from where you will see your doctor greeting you ! The doctor can focus on you with the help of high resolution camera and control the Robot by just tapping on the iPad screen. The invention of Robotic doctors shows the rapid advancement in the field of Robotics & Telemedicine which is in simple terms the transfer of medical information using telephone ,internet or other networking sources. We shall explore the various possibilities, challenges and drawbacks of Telemedicine today to update our knowledge on the current medical scenario.
Benefits of Telemedicine
Telemedicine dates back to the time when the patient used to communicate with the doctor via a post. We know that 75% of India’s population live in rural areas where health care services are not readily accessible. The evolution of Telemedicine shows promise in providing health care to those under privileged who often die without being given basic medical care and timely intervention to curb the ailment ,thus not letting the patient’s health from further deteriorating. This occurs as majority of the doctors practice in urban areas and their services are not available to the rural population. By setting up Telemedicine in rural and remote areas and appointing trained medical staff, both the doctor and patient can save the time and cost required to travel to and fro. Also the physician can keep a check on his patients who are suffering from chronic diseases and emergencies can be tackled better as the golden hour may slip away traveling from the remote & rural areas to hospitals in cities
ISRO has set up Telemedicine network in 306 Indian remote/rural health centres and 16 Telemedicine units which are connected to 60 Super speciality hospitals in cities through INSAT satellites. Telecardiology which involves transmitting ECG traces, Teledermatology which utilizes digital image transmitting and Teleradiology with which radiological images can be sent to the doctor via telephone or internet are the fields of medicine where Telemedicine has proved its credibility in. Also eye screening for various eye conditions, mammography and diabetic screening is facilitated by Telemedicine
Speaking of the negative aspects, many may miss the personal interaction with the doctor as it has to break the barrier of conservative medical practice and be convinced of the efficiency with which technology can be relied upon for medical care. The doctor patient inter relationship may be altered to one which is mechanical and deprived of empathy. The physician is left at the mercy of networking aids to come at a diagnosis or review a patient. Apart from these, legal issues of malpractice and patient information of not being kept confidential may arise. Another important factor is the cost effectiveness of Telemedicine. Networking and communication costs can be a negative factor even while ruling out the much sophisticated Robots in use.
Even though Telemedicine today faces criticism on grounds of ethical, social and professional grounds, giving way to its development and research can bring a drastic change to the picture of health care in not only other countries but in India as well. Health care is a field which cant be neglected and its growth will directly and indirectly contribute to the nation’s economy. Already Telemedicine facilities are being provided in many states and union territories of our country and with better financial aid from government and private sectors it shall only flourish to built a better and healthier India