[This article is authored by Ramya Sankaran (Associate Partner) and Manoj Mohapatra (Legal Associate) at Gagrats Advocates and Solicitors, Mumbai. It attempts to identify the loopholes in the legal framework that oversees the telemedicine practice in India and suggest measures that can be implemented to safeguards the interests of the patients.]
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the outlook of medical services globally. One of the most significant developments is the steady rise of telemedicine practice, which involves delivery of health care amenities using information and communication technologies. Telemedicine service is promising as it ensures access to health care from the comfort of the homes of patients who require medical aid. It safeguards both health care practitioners and patients from exposure to life threatening viruses and promotes their well-being. The technological tools that can be used to deliver and/or avail telemedicine services are widely subjected to regulation by legislation or guidelines, specific to their unique purpose and / or general framework governing information technology. These laws are intended to prevent commission of fraud by miscreants using information technology tools, and impose obligations on the technology service providers to ensure prevention of such frauds. However, in India, neither the specific legislations governing telemedicine practice nor the general laws governing use of information technology, sufficiently address issues concerning misuse of technological tools, especially telephone/ mobile phone and chat platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc., for perpetrating medical frauds. This paper identifies the lacunae in the legal framework governing telemedicine practice in India, which is not sufficiently armed with measures that can address the dangers posed by use of telephones/ mobile phones and chat platforms to provide medical services. Furthermore, measures that can be implemented to safeguard patients from the grip of fraudulent practitioners offering telemedicine services have been evaluated and suggested, in this paper.