Switching to telemedicine: How much it will cost?
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Switching to telemedicine: How much it will cost?

  • Highlights

  • There will be 7 million telemedicine users worldwide by the year 2018

  • Cater to remote areas, expand their patient reach & reduce expenses

What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is defined as the delivery of healthcare services using telecommunications. It helps doctors evaluate and treat patients without an in-person visit. For instance, if a patient, who lives in a remote area wants to avail the services of a doctor from another city, their auxiliary expenditure on travel and accommodation may be in excess of the consultation charges, making such a visit prohibitive. Telemedicine helps in minimizing these auxiliary expenses by delivering clinical care through live video conferences.

Setting Up a Telemedicine Unit

Telemedicine is currently a revolution in the field of healthcare. Statistics project that there will be 7 million telemedicine users worldwide by the year 2018, which is approximately about 180% increase to that of 2017. Therefore, it becomes important for the doctors and physicians to incorporate telemedicine into their daily practice.
Setting up an efficient and reliable telemedicine unit requires knowledge about the hardware, software, and personnel required, and finances to cover costs.

A. Equipment and software:


The equipment required to set up a telemedicine unit include:

Telemedicine carts: Telemedicine carts contain monitors, cameras, speakers and microphones, which help doctors to meet their patients virtually. A good telemedicine cart features pneumatic height adjustment, flexible handles for easy movement of the cart, antimicrobial work surfaces, high definition cameras, and mounted monitors with which to view the patient. The most common ones in use are:
Patient Assessment Terminal (PAT): The PAT is a permanent wall mount and acts as a terminal for telemedicine consultation. It uses cameras to monitor the patients.
Clinical Assistant: The Clinical Assistant is a basic, light-weight, portable terminal and is the best choice for organisations that are just beginning to offer telemedicine services because of its basic set up.
Portable TeleClinic: Portable TeleClinic is a portable box equipped with an integrated tablet for communications and medical devices with which to conduct clinical examinations.

Medical devices:

Telemedicine is incomplete without medical devices that are used to evaluate and diagnose medical conditions. These portable medical devices can be added to the telemedicine carts. They are as follows:
• Examination camera
• Stethoscope
• ECG
• Spirometer
• Retinal camera
• Ultrasound
• Vital sign monitor

Software:

Telemedicine software provides good user interface through which patients can chat with the doctor. Some of the software available for telemedicine are:
• Doxy.me
• WeCounsel
• eVisit
• Sherpaa
• VSee
• Zoom

B. Team:

A good telemedicine team is essential to deliver the best quality of healthcare services and should comprise of the following members:
IT representative: The IT representative takes care of the telemedicine devices, keeps the equipment and software updated, and also trains the personnel who take care of the equipment during a virtual visit.
Clinical team representative: The clinical team representative is responsible for assessing the patient’s clinical condition, and planning the patient’s clinical management.
Inventory manager: The inventory manager’s role is to maintain and track all other equipment (apart from the hardware and software which is looked after by the IT representative) and coordinate the process of their installation and de-installation. The inventory manager also deals with the financial aspects involved in running the telemedicine unit.

How doctors can take their practice to the next level

C. Costs:

The cost of setting up a telemedicine unit depends on the types of services provided. The overall cost might look like this:

Considerations for Telemedicine Cost in Indian Rupees
Software 20,000
Medical Devices 4,50,000
Communication Platform  

Software

90,000

Hardware

5,40,000
Hardware packaging 15,00,000
Training 1,20,000
Total 27,20,000
 

Setting up a telemedicine unit can be profitable in terms of revenue, but does need an initial investment of approximately Rs. 25-30 lakh. These funds can be sourced through your savings, or through a business loan designed specifically for doctors by Bajaj Finserv. These loans come with benefits like:

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