Worldwide, people living in rural and remote areas struggle to access timely, quality specialty medical care. Residents of these areas often have substandard access to specialty health care, primarily because specialist physicians are more likely to be located in areas of concentrated population. Communication for healthcare services via call system offers many advantages. This interactive consultation is typically from an urban-to-rural location. It means that the patient does not have to travel to an urban area to see a specialist. This facility allows access to specialty care to underserved rural and urban populations when none was previously available. Because of availability of doctor on call, geographical isolation is no longer an insurmountable obstacle to the basic needs of timely and quality medical care. Telecommunication plays a vital role in rural health care. This is mainly due to sparse population density coupled with the fact that there are few major centres of advanced care in these rural areas.
Doctor on a call system is more than just answering health questions. They also assess a patient’s health concerns without the advantage of visual inspection or face-to-face interaction. They rely on their communication skills, knowledge of disease processes, and normal growth and development for all age groups in order to ascertain an accurate understanding of the described symptoms. The doctor on call can also provide services such as preventive medicine, education on how to stay healthy and to maximize the resources of the tertiary care facilities. Impeccable listening skills to notice the non-verbal clues the client is giving regarding pain, anxiety, fear, and level of comprehension are an equally important trait in their diagnosis.
Innovations in telecommunications technology have overcome these geographical barriers between the patient and doctor. This separation could be as small as across town, across a state, or even across the world. The term ‘telemedicine‘ appropriately describes this direct provision of clinical care via telecommunications–diagnosing, treating or following up with a patient at a distance. Health aides at the various locations and for practically any medical problem including emergency care can use it effectively. Consultation through a call system to a specialist can alleviate prohibitive travel and associated costs for patients. It also opens up new possibilities for continuing education or training for isolated or rural health practitioners, who may not be able to leave a rural practice to take part in professional meetings or educational opportunities. Use of doctor on call facility also cut costs of medical care for those in rural areas.
Almost all specialties of medicine have been found to be conducive to this kind of consultation including psychiatry, internal medicine, rehabilitation, cardiology, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology and neurology.