MCI BoG Issues Telemedicine Practice Guidelines for Virtual Consultations

The practice of telemedicine is aimed at providing remote consultation to patients through phone or online healthcare services amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Owing to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, The Medical Council of India Board of Governors ( MCI BOG) have sanctioned the use of telemedicine by registered doctors in the country. The board released a set of guidelines which are aimed at providing remote consultation to patients through phone or online healthcare services.

Telemedicine, through which transmission of infectious diseases can be prevented, reducing the risks to both healthcare workers and patients, is defined as ‘the delivery of health care services, where distance is a critical factor, by all health care 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 for the continuing education of health care providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.’

“It makes available extra working hands to provide physical care at the respective health institutions. Thus, health systems that are invested in telemedicine are well-positioned to ensure that patients with Covid-19 kind of issues receive the care they need.”, states the guidelines.

The guidelines also mention that telemedicine not only provides timely and faster access, and solves financial costs associated with travel, but also reduces the inconvenience/impact to family and caregivers and social factors. Telemedicine can play a particularly important role in cases where there is no need for the patient to physically see the registered medical practitioner (or other medical professional), e.g. for regular, routine check-ups or continuous monitoring, the board said, adding telemedicine can reduce the burden on the secondary hospitals.

For doctors, the guidelines states that, “All registered medical practitioners intending to provide online consultation need to complete a mandatory online course within three years of its notification. In the interim period, the principles mentioned in these guidelines need to be followed. Thereafter, undergoing and qualifying such a course, as prescribed, will be essential prior to practice of telemedicine.”

The guidelines have now been made part of the MCI Code of Medical Ethics by being in included as an amendment to the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, by adding Regulation 3.8 titled as “Consultation by Telemedicine” in the said Regulations.

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