Nagpur: Getting online consultation from doctors recommended by certain websites or mobile apps is a growing trend these days. But, a recent clarification released by the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) will be a big blow to this e-commerce activity.
MMC, which prescribes a code of ethics to regulate the professional conduct of physicians, has made it clear that a physician registered in Maharashtra cannot be associated with practice management software or other platforms that allow for online consultation on the basis of revenue sharing.
In response to a question under the Right to Information Act (RTI), MMC’s Registrar Dr Sanjay Deshmukh also admitted that MMC has yet to establish formal guidelines for online consultations. .
âPractice management platforms allow online consultation on the basis of revenue sharing. The doctors attached to these platforms pay them by contract or by agreement. These websites function as intermediaries much like radio booth or food delivery platforms. But it is not a suitable model for health services, which is a serious and very important problem, âsaid Dr Prasad Kulkarni, who filed this RTI application. According to him, online platforms are like appointing an agency to procure patients, which is unethical for doctors.
âOnline business registration platforms publish a list of top doctors who take advantage of their paid / premium services. Many individual practitioners fall prey to these websites. Paid reviews, announcements, ratings are an integral part of the work model of these platforms. This model is not appropriate in the healthcare sector, âKulkarni said.
A Nagpur chief medical officer claimed that an online platform downgraded her rating when it stopped subscribing to the registration website. âA website that helps people find doctors and book their appointments online approached me last year with a flat rate. I subscribed to their plan for a year but then refused to renew it. Since then my rating has steadily declined on this platform, âshe said. Doctors turned to MMC to form its own guidelines and create an authorized online platform to make it easier to find doctors.
âMMC has registered and renewed nearly a lakh of doctors through 2019. The registration and renewal process is completely online. So it is not difficult for the board to create its own registration website. Said a senior member of MMC.
Many websites offer free consultations by doctors up to a certain limit and then refer patients to that doctor for further treatment / consultation.
Many applications provide services such as finding doctors in the best specialties, making free appointments, and âcutting offâ doctors.
Several websites and applications also offer services such as âchat with a doctorâ, which aims to refer the patient to a doctor for further consultation.
Some SEO websites offer doctors subscription packages and promote them on websites by improving their ratings and search engine optimization techniques.
However, the rules say appointing an agency to buy patients is not ethical practice for doctors.
MMC has yet to draft appropriate guidelines for physicians entering such e-commerce platforms / online aggregators and start-ups.