Doctors cannot give online consultancy: MMC

Doctors cannot associate with any website or app for online consultation

Doctor Medical Practice
Picture: Pixabay

Nagpur: Getting online consultation from doctors recommended by some websites or mobile applications is a growing trend these days. But, a recent clarification issued by the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) will be a big blow to this e-commerce activity.

MMC, which prescribes a code of ethics for regulating the professional conduct of medical practitioners, has made it clear that a registered medical practitioner in Maharashtra cannot be associated with practice management software or other platforms which allow online consultation on revenue sharing basis.

In reply to a query under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, MMC registrar Dr Sanjay Deshmukh also admitted that MMC is yet to form official guidelines regarding online consultations.

“Practice management platforms allow online consultation on revenue sharing basis. Doctors who are attached to these platforms pay them for contract or agreement. These websites work as middlemen just like radio-cab or food delivery platforms. But, this is not a proper model for health services, which is a serious and very important issue,” said Dr Prasad Kulkarni, who filed this RTI application. According to him, online platforms are like appointing an agency to procure patients, which is against the ethics of medical practitioners.

“Online business listing platforms issue top listing to doctors who avail their paid/premium services. Many individual practitioners are falling prey to these websites. Paid reviews, listings, ratings are integral part of the work pattern of these platforms. This model is not proper in health sector,” Kulkarni said.

A senior doctor in Nagpur claimed that one online platform degraded her rating when she stopped subscription to the listing website. “A website that helps people find doctors and book their appointment online had approached me last year with a package. I subscribed to their package for a year but then refused to renew. Since then, my rating has been constantly going down on this platform,” she said. Doctors have appealed to MMC to form its own guidelines and create an authorized online platform to ease the search for doctors.

“MMC has registered and renewed nearly a lakh doctors till 2019. Registration and renewal process is completely online. So, it’s not difficult for the council to start its own listing website,” said a senior member of MMC.

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Many websites provide free consultation by doctors till a certain limit and later refer patients to that doctor for further treatment/consultation

Many apps provide services like find doctors in top specialities and book appointments for free, and take a ‘cut’ from doctors

Several websites and app also provide services like ‘chat with doctor’, which is aimed at referring patient to doctor for further consultation

Some listing websites offer subscription packages to medical practitioners and promote them on websites by improving their ratings and search engine optimization techniques

However, rules say appointing any agency to procure patients is not ethical practice for doctors

MMC is yet to draft proper guidelines for doctors entering into such e-commerce platforms/online aggregators and start-ups