The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the public healthcare system to the breaking point in many countries across the world. With learnings from other countries that hospitals and clinics have the potential to become super spreader sites, the healthcare system that relied on doctors and patients meeting face to face has come to a crashing halt. With an unprecedented number of people needing medical attention, teleconsultation and telemedicine have gained popularity.
Fighting the pandemic has also brought together people like nothing else. A lot of individuals, NGOs, healthcare workers, organisations, etc. have come together to help the community fight the pandemic.
About the partnership
One such partnership has been that of Exotel and the Ernakulam District Central TeleConsultation System under the able leadership of Shri Suhas IAS, Collector, Ernakulam, Dr. NK Kuttappan, DMO Ernakulam, Dr. Mathew Numpeli, DPM, National Health Mission, Ernakulam and Dr. Junaid Rahman, Indian Medical Association (Cochin Chapter).
A panel of doctors were deputed by the National Health Mission to form a referral system. This panel was available for all the district healthcare staff to call in for a second opinion or to clarify their doubts about the treatment of a COVID patient/suspect.
IVR to run the TeleConsultation system
The healthcare infrastructure required was provided by the Indian Medical Association (Cochin Chapter) while the IVR system and support was extended by Exotel. This Central TeleConsultation Unit has the following functions:
1. Provides guidance to all medical professionals across the district on the treatment of any COVID patient/suspect.
2. Provides TeleConsultation to patients referred by any healthcare professional within the district.
3. Provides TeleConsultation and follow-ups to persons under quarantine.
4. Provides counselling over the phone to those under quarantine and to corona patients under treatment.
5. Provides pharmacist support 24*7 to locate and deliver medicines when necessary.
How it works
Exotel’s IVR system has enabled the team, with only a handful of doctors and supporting staff, to cater to a large number of calls more efficiently.
1. Moderators – These are data entry volunteers who enter details of a referred patient into the system. These patients are then contacted either through a voice call or a video call by one of the doctors.
2. Doctors – These doctors are available to respond to queries of other healthcare professionals throughout the district.
3. Pharmacist – For any queries relating to community pharmacy, availability of medicines or any request for delivery of medicines where necessary.
The system also efficiently keeps track of the number of calls, and even the details of the calls that are missed. With their user-friendly UI, it is effortless to restructure the IVR system and get all the relevant data in the summary of calls.
The system has been functioning uninterrupted for over 100 days now at the IMA House, Kaloor. It has more than 20 doctors and moderators working around the clock to ensure every individual within the district has access to healthcare 24*7. Wherever required, consultations are made through video call and follow-up is ensured through a Tele-Medicine web-based application.
Over 3120 patients have availed this TeleConsultation facility till date and the number is steadily increasing by the day as we have more inbound travellers in-home quarantines and more number of positive cases of the corona. The system receives over 300 calls every day with over 90 new cases being registered into the system.
The Ernakulam District Central TeleConsultation System is our first line of defence in our fight against the Corona. It absorbs a lot of the load that would have otherwise fallen on the hospitals. The idea is to reduce crowding at hospitals and to treat people within their homes wherever possible. This allows the hospitals to be made available for the most serious cases and also reduces the spread of the CoronaVirus by avoiding crowding at the hospitals.
This TeleConsultation system runs in compliance with the Telemedicine practice guidelines, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics Regulation), 2002.