When you can order everything from a pin to an aeroplane, why can’t we have a doctor online available 24/7? It has lot to do with the what ifs nature of this profession. In India, 60% of the population still does not have access to 3G network. Furthermore, there are no laws available governing the dos & don’ts of doctor online.
What are the hurdles of having a doctor online?
Quite a lot of medical issues are not straight forward. Because of limitations of technology there can be misdiagnosis. There are a lot of diseases which have similar symptoms. In the absence of a physical examination and the ability to see the patient talk and walk in front of the doctor, the accuracy of the diagnosis maybe questionable.
In fact, diagnosis is not accurate even when doctors do see the patients in person! Imagine what were to happen if they have all that data missing. So getting the disease wrong, and prescribing medications or procedures as a result, which may cause more harm than good, is of the major reasons there would not be the availability of a doctor online
Another big issue is misuse of medications, mainly as overdose. Patients may be tempted to take more than prescribed for extended relief, which may not be advisable. Some people may even do so for self-harm. The doctor is not able to shake off the blame as easily if the prescription is online because there are no laws to protect the doctors in such instances.
The other risks that a doctor online can run in, in case a misdiagnosis is – faulty prescription or abatement charge levied on them leading torevoking or temporary ban of their license. Something of this sort will also gain media attention obviously, and so, getting patients to trust you after that becomes a big problem.
The next and connected risk is the loss of trust and respect. It is linked to the one above, but may happen even in the absence of your license being revoked. Even if you win the case, people will still feel some lingering doubt over it.
How are doctors protected outside?
In India, the current online pharmacies are actually illegal, and are currently under the scanner of the law. Therefore, their strategy seems to be to make as much money as they can till a violation is stamped on them, and then disappear. But this is not how doctors can function.
In most western countries, there are laws which clearly state when can and can’t a doctor be incriminated and under what circumstances is a license to be revoked. This also means that as long as a doctor maintains good records and uses good technology, he will be in the clear. The law system there is also obviously swifter so you don’t have to live with a bad name for years. Despite all this, doctors abroad are still hesitant. This explains why here the silence is more profound on online prescriptions.
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