With all hospital beds occupied, telemedicine and digital health services on the riseMore people are taking consultations via digital means due to the stay-at-home orders and the risk of Covid-19 transmission at healthcare facilities.
As Nepal fights the huge second coronavirus wave amid a shortage of beds in hospitals, the healthcare sector has witnessed a massive demand for digital healthcare systems and telemedicine services.
With the risk of Covid-19 transmission especially at the healthcare facilities, and the government’s stay-at-home orders causing hassles to travel, many people have opted for taking consultations via digital means.
Kathmandu based health start-up companies are providing online medical consultations, medicine delivery, and even health service at the patient's door.
A number of startups whom the Post talked to, said people have been gradually adopting digital service.
Nhurendra Shakya, co-founder and director of Lunivatech, said the number of people taking health services—online consultation and lab tests on call— have sharply increased. “We have recorded a growth by 70 percent in telemedicine demand this year as compared to last year in the Kathmandu valley.”
After the pandemic, the company said it added many features in the app— like lab tests especially for regular health check-ups where they can book lab tests online and pay online, online consultation through video call and voice call where prescriptions are also provided digitally which has also helped in keeping digital records of patients.
An entry system in the app has been developed targeting Covid-19 patient who can fill their body temperature, oximeter level and if results are abnormal then an alert is sent to the doctor where the patient can get advice on whether they should go to a hospital or remain at home according to their condition and take consultation from the doctor.
Most of the service takers are above the age of 40.
Due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, patients are afraid to visit hospitals for their regular check-ups. “We visit their home and collect samples,” said Shakya.
“People outside the valley are also requesting for the service but we don’t have skilled lab technicians.”
The company collects more than 100 samples for PCR test daily, he said.
Similarly, the company charges Rs500 per online consultation with doctors.
For PCR test, the company charges Rs2,000 and Rs500 as sample collection charge. Additional Rs1,000 is charged in case of long-distance travel.
Nepal on Saturday reported 53 more Covid-19 related fatalities, pushing the death toll to 3,632. The country also recorded 8,287 new cases and 131 antigen positives.
The overall infection tally has reached 385,890 with 83,493 active cases.
According to the Health Ministry, 8,287 people tested positive in 17,315 polymerase chain reaction tests in the last 24 hours. That makes 48 percent of those tested returning positive results.
The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries, the apex private sector body, on Saturday started telemedicine service for coronavirus infected people who are in home isolation. Named “Operation Covid Relief Nepal”, those infected can take health advice from doctors for free through Viber.
“As getting beds in hospitals has become almost impossible in the current situation, we started this initiative. It will facilitate people to take advice from doctors,” said Ranjit Acharya, president of Start-up and Innovation Committee in the federation. “The service will particularly provide medical counselling to coronavirus patients.”
The infected people can make an inquiry by sending a message containing their name, age and address on Viber using the number 2111121111. A doctor will then make a video call and consultation is provided.
Acharya said 100 appointments have been fixed for Sunday. For telemedicine service, five doctors have been fixed in collaboration with Doctor on Call.
Health At Home, another telemedicine company, has been serving patients at their home.
According to the company, it has been providing a range of personal care and support services to individuals in their own homes by licensed healthcare professionals.
The demand for online delivery of medicine has also increased.
Sabi Singh, chief executive officer of Online Aushadhi, said as logistics companies are not allowed to operate due to the lockdown, her company has been fulfilling the orders for medicine by mobilizing two dedicated delivery boys.
According to KC, online orders for medicine have increased by twofold as compared to last year’s orders. “The demand for medicine, mainly supportive in treating the coronavirus, has been increasing with the rise in Covid cases,” she said. “Besides, orders for masks, oximeters, vitamins, paracetamol, electrolyte have also increased.”
“As most of the patients with positive cases are staying in home isolation, medicine orders have piled up. We leave the medicine at their doorstep and they make digital payment,” she said.
More than 70 percent of people are making payment digitally, she said.