The World Health Organization defines telemedicine as “the delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation, and continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.”
While complex, this definition encompasses and delineates the entire scope of telemedicine. Telemedicine dates back to the midlate nineteenth century when electrocardiographic data was first transmitted over telephone wires.
Tele-ICU in a Pandemic context
In the event of pandemics, the advantages of tele-ICU are immediately obvious. First, tele-ICUs can offer professional guidance in patient screening and control COVID unit triage. Panic among healthcare professionals can frequently result in poor triage during pandemics, and unneeded admissions can overburden the hospital system. Assistance from a remote expert might lessen this.
Second, knowledgeable tele-ICU staff can serve as a resource centre for bedside caregivers with regard to infection-control procedures and give clear instructions regarding the necessity of testing admitted patients.
Third, the most significant advantage of tele-ICU is the ability to closely monitor patients suspected or diagnosed with COVID from remote sites while minimizing bedside staff exposure time. Consistent evidence suggests that caregiver exposure time correlates with the risk of contracting the illness and the viral load once infected. Tele-ICU is an effective alternative for providing high-quality care while minimizing caregiver exposure. Fourth, during a pandemic, bedside staff have little time to interact with and counsel family members due to the high volume and acuity of patients. Tele-ICU teams allow families to communicate with a care provider without interfering with the flow of bedside care.
Finally, several isolation wards and high-dependency units could be managed centrally by a team of intensive care physicians with help from ground teams, maximising the efficiency of available personnel. During the crisis, simple and innovative solutions based on existing applications(apps) on smart phones may also be used to provide a tele-health solution.
Tele-ICU services have been structured and successfully implemented in India, and it has been demonstrated that they have an impact on quality, particularly in ensuring best practises. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was extremely beneficial to improve access to specialists and avoid multiple visits by healthcare professionals in isolation rooms. While such services are provided remotely, previous attempts for hospitals in India have failed due to technological issues and a mismatch in end-user expectations. We urge you to join us in reviving and reenergizing tele-ICU services in India through the use of innovative, user-friendly homegrown solutions.
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