I was able to do so perhaps because I teach in a medical school, I have the fortune of knowing some good doctors, to have a good rapport with them. But how many have that privilege? May be only the socially active individuals would have a doctor in their phone list whom they can call or text seeking advice.
There arise umpteen health issues which needs advice. It could be a mental health issue, menstrual health issue, simple viral fever, gait issue, etc. But where does one go to seeking simple information, advice?
Internet, of course.
But internet suffers from the peculiar problem of plenty. There is so much information, misdirected that one will get lost more often than not.
There would be nothing like a person on the other side of the phone, listening with empathy, possessing adequate knowledge to address basic queries, direct, follow up.
In a country where healthcare is in a mess, plagued by severe shortage of doctors, tele medicine could serve as a panacea.
With increased mobile phone penetration, especially in rural India where gaps in healthcare is glaring, a toll free number which would help clarify simple questions about health, would be welcome.
One would think, what happens currently? For basic queries one who can't access or cave afford ends up with a quack or the nearest pharmacy, both places which are unlikely to give the right advice.
In such conditions to be able to talk to a health care professional would be beneficial and it has numerous positive fallouts.
The onus for developing such an enabling architecture should lay with the government for the positive externalities are plenty. The system could employ MBBS interns who would volunteer to retired doctors to other qualified healthcare professionals. CSR funds may also be channelized for the realization of such a scheme.
The challenges would be to find professionals who already are less in number, to provide solution givers in local languages, to ensure quality being maintained. The scheme can be piloted in few districts to iron out these issues before rolling it at the national level.
Health literacy is abysmal in India and issues like antibiotic resistance plague us. A tele medicine service can help in addressing many of these issues.
It is time such a scheme is given serious thought and experimented with.