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“Source:- Economic Times”
BENGALURU: The government’s recent notification regulating telemedicine amid the Covid-19 pandemic has given a boost to the business of healthtech startups operating in the segment, despite certain restrictions imposed on prescribing medicines to first-time patients.

mfine, 1MG, and Practo expect more hospitals and doctors to line up to teleconsult on the platforms, as it is no longer considered a regulatory grey area. Portea Medical , which provides home healthcare support through nurses and doctors, also plans to scale its teleconsulting business. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have already led to rising demand for their services.

“Earlier there was a grey area around telemedicine. In the absence of policy, some healthcare professionals were apprehensive about telemedicine. These rules helped us a lot to clarify all the doubts,”

cofounder Ashutosh Lawania said. “Earlier we had questions from doctors whether there was a risk doing teleconsultation. Now we won’t have those questions.”

As Covid-19 outbreak spread in India, mfine has seen patient volume growing fourfold, and hundreds of queries from hospitals.

“These guidelines were the need of the hour. We’ve always had comprehensive protocols in place to ensure a high quality of care, and there’s a huge overlap between our protocols and the guidelines released; over the course of the next few days, we’ll incorporate other finer aspects as well,” said Alexander Kuruvilla, the chief health strategy officer at Practo.

Practo said it had received requests from a large number of hospitals and clinics to make the online consultation services live for them, and that it was also reaching out to a lot of establishments so that they could continue providing consultations to their patients online.

“We have been consulting on the phone but we didn’t prescribe medicines until now. With the new rules it is now possible,” said Meena Ganesh, a cofounder and the managing director of Portea Medical. “We already have enough doctors and nurses. Now it is about making them available on the teleconsulting platform.”

Narayana Health founder and chairman Devi Shetty called the rules “lifesaving” but added that the government needed to do more for first-time consultation remotely as otherwise, the impact would be limited. The rules don’t allow doctors to prescribe most medicines for first consultations.

Gurugram-based 1MG also raised similar concerns. “The regulations have certainly opened the path for telemedicine for patients to access healthcare. However, there are a few fundamental points that will have to evolve for effectiveness,” cofounder Prashant Tandon said. “The regulations have described what you can prescribe and under what scenario. The list for first-time consultation is very restrictive even if the doctor has all the information. It urgently requires updating.”