The provincial health ministry has decided to introduce Sindh Telemedicine and Telehealth Bill 2021 allowing medical practitioners to treat patients online.
A meeting of the Sindh Assembly Standing Committee on Health deliberated on various aspects of the bill both from the prospect of the patients and the medical professionals.
Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho told the meeting that telemedicine was an important need of the modern era and the bill will help regulate the emerging sector.
"Female doctors who stopped medical practice after marriage can resume their profession through telemedicine services," Pechuho said adding Sindh Telemedicine and Telehealth Bill 2021 will give benefit to women health practitioners working from home.
Sindh health department tested online provision of health services during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. "It was a successful experience," she said.
The proposed legislation will open new opportunities for both the patients and health practitioners, she said.
According to the Bill, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, any medical practitioner offering online healthcare services will have to get registered.
It says: "a Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) or health care service organisation like hospitals and clinics entered into the registry shall provide Telemedicine consultation to patients from any part of Sindh province."
The RMPs shall be entitled to practice telemedicine or telehealth after taking an online course on the practice of telemedicine and telehealth. The course or training can provided by the online technology provider organizations as a part of implementation of telehealth platform.
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The telehealth registered health professionals will give telehealth services to any medical or paramedical professionals serving at any health facility and will also give telehealth services to community, general public for promotion of good health practices and for information and education.
On the issue of confidentaily, the Bill says that no data or information will be shared without the consent of the patients or authorized caregiver. Any breach in this will result in a penalty of Rs100,000 or punishment for the term of two years either or both, it said.
The telemedicine can reduce the burden on secondary hospitals and can play an important role in cases where there is no need for patients to physically see a medical professional.
If implemented, it will also reduce the financial cost associated with travel and better time management.
The Bill, expected to be presented in the next Sindh Assembly session, will be implemented after the approval from the members.
Health department's spokesperson Atif Vighio said that the medical practitioners from other provinces can also treat the patients in Sindh. But, he added, they will have to get registered themselves before the online practices in the province.
Vighio also claimed that Sindh was the only province in Pakistan which was introducing such kind of modern method of treatment. "Sindh province is leading in health sector and it is going to set another unique idea of treatment," he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2021.
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