Tele-consultation has long been used in medicine as a way to connect with professionals all over the world for expert advice on specific essential circumstances. However, during the coronavirus epidemic, when individuals seek to avoid doctor appointments as much as possible, this has become a frequent and recommended practice. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other similar settings are the most likely sites to contract an infection.

A tele-consultation with a doctor is a possible alternative to going to the doctor or, even worse, skipping the consultation entirely. Tele-consultation is the process of consulting a doctor or other healthcare expert via information and communication technologies such as phone calls, video calls, chat, and email in real-time or delayed-time. Tele-consultation is beneficial to both the medical expert and the patient in circumstances where physical examination of the patient is not required for diagnosis.

A tele-consultation may fall short in cases where the doctor needs to use his or her four senses — vision, touch, hearing, and smell – to establish a correct diagnosis, and a visit may be unavoidable. Even in this situation, several trips can be avoided by using teleconsultation for times when a verbal and visual lead or follow-up with the doctor is sufficient.

Because tele-consultation is a relatively new practise in India, we’ve compiled a list of factors to consider while scheduling a medical tele-consultation.

  1. A phone call, a video call, or a live chat can be used for a real-time teleconsultation appointment. A delayed response method, on the other hand, could be an offline conversation, WhatsApp message, SMS, or even email. Availability, costs, and response time vary depending on the option selected. Given the nature and severity of the sickness, the decision should be carefully considered.
  1. A tele-consultation appointment can be scheduled in a variety of ways. There are a number of aggregate websites where doctors and healthcare professionals from all across India can register. You can go to these websites or download their apps to choose from a variety of specialists based on their pricing, experience, patient reviews, and other factors; make an online payment; and schedule an appointment from the available slots.

Today online social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc., are not just limited to general people creating their social network or a place to hang out for entertainment; they have become a hub of information. Updates from the entertainment industry to news from every sector. Even the professionals of the healthcare sector i.e., doctors, nurses, dieticians, fitness experts are effectively using social media platforms to provide relevant medical information beneficial for both doctors in their daily practice and patients in their daily care or guidance towards any medical conditions. Social media platforms are also being used efficiently to create awareness related to their organizations and practices.

When it comes to developing a complete social media strategy, however, health care workers confront significant hurdles. 

HIPAA Compliance

To offer efficient patient care and assure their continued operation, medical organizations and institutions must adhere to a variety of regulations and policies.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), signed by President Bill

Clinton in 1996, is one of the federal laws that healthcare organizations must follow. HIPAA is a federal law that forbids anybody from disclosing a patient’s health information or medical records to anyone outside of the patient’s health care facility.

Since health care experts can walk a very fine line between using social media for their jobs and breaking the law, HIPAA has provided a list of guidelines that medical professionals can look to as the standard while using social media in health care.

It is important for physicians, administrators, nurse managers, and other leaders in health care to be aware of the balance between social media usage and HIPAA compliance, and train their staff accordingly.

Since the health care workers are bound to thread a narrow line between utilizing social media for their employment and breaking the law, HIPAA has created a set of standards that medical practitioners can use as a guideline for using social media in their work.

Physicians, administrators, nurse managers, and other healthcare leaders must be cognizant of the balance between the use of social media and HIPAA compliance; and also train their employees properly. Also, while using social media platforms, physicians and nurses must be aware of a number of possible concerns. 

When utilizing social media, health care providers must protect themselves and their patients by not posting patient’s names, medical records or histories, dates of birth, medical conditions, and other personal information.

Accuracy

Accuracy is another issue with using social media in health care. Individuals interested in learning about potential medical disorders, infectious diseases, and therapies may find it challenging to find trustworthy public health information on social media.

People who are having particular symptoms may turn to social media to check what others have posted who have had the same or similar symptoms. These posts, however, may be erroneous and lack medical evidence to back them up. Inaccurate information can lead people to believe they have a medical problem when they don’t or cause confusion about the precautions that must be taken to prevent the spread of an infectious disease.

During the time of the COVID-19 outbreak, for example, a great deal of misinformation has been shared on social media by people and news organizations all over the world. People looking for information on how rapidly the virus can spread and how it can be stopped have discovered conflicting information and opinions on social media, making it difficult to know what is accurate. 

According to a Research Center poll, over two-thirds of people around the world believe that at least some of the news and information they’ve read about the coronavirus is false.

The spread of misinformation on social media creates a negative impact on public health professionals’ work and makes it more difficult for them to keep the public informed about crucial health issues. Public health organizations and professionals must constantly monitor the dissemination of false health information and refute myths by providing the public with research- backed resources.

Professionalism

Another concern that physicians may have about utilizing social media is maintaining their professionalism with patients and coworkers. They may lose credibility if they are overly intimate or casual on social media.

Furthermore, medical professionals and clinicians seek to combat healthcare misinformation in public health issues while avoiding the supply of misinformation or contributing to medical debates.

Shortage of Time

Time constraints are adding another difficulty for health care practitioners to contend with while using social media in health care. Doctors and primary care providers are typically engaged back-to-back with 15- to 30-minute appointments every day. Even during their free time, they get usually busy addressing the walk-in patients or those who have made last-minute appointments. As a result, doctors may find it difficult to post on social media on a regular basis. As many individuals use social media on a daily or weekly basis, those interested in health issues prefer to follow doctors or medical experts who have active social media presence or are posting on a regular basis.

The standards expected from a doctor or healthcare professionals do not change because communication is done via social media rather than face-to-face or other traditional media. Using social media, on the other hand, generates new situations in which the established rules apply. While raising awareness about the services or medical knowledge, healthcare professionals must ensure that the material published is accurate and verifiable and that it does not take advantage of patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical expertise.

Many online doctor networking platforms like DocsCampus, Docquity, WhiteCoat, etc. are available to enable doctors and health professionals to create their presence among the healthcare community. Use the platform to get information on current practice in a specific situation, enhance their knowledge as well as share it with their juniors, interact with the peers in their specialty, prepare for next specialization, establish national and international professional networks, etc.

Some platforms like DocsCampus also aim to not just empower the doctor’s community, but also offer to create a doctor patient network specially focused on connecting doctors directly to healthcare seekers and patients by engaging in public health and policy discussion and facilitating patients access to health and service information.

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