With patients choosing to stay away from outpatient departments (OPD) fearing Covid transmission, online consultations — an improvisation forced by the pandemic last year — have made a roaring comeback. Most leading private hospitals have revived their online platforms and started an awareness campaign among patients, advising them to switch to virtual meetings with doctors. OPD footfalls have dipped by 80% in some Kolkata hospitals over the last two weeks.AMRI Hospital has resuscitated its online consultation platform that had been created in April 2020. Around 50 doctors across its three units — Salt Lake, Dhakuria and Mukundapur — have already joined the programme and more could follow in the weeks to come, according to AMRI CEO Rupak Barua. “With OPD attendance down to 20%, we are now focused on online consultations. All that the patients have to do is call a helpline number and seek a slot. If they can’t select a doctor, our assistants will guide them,” said Barua. Around 150 patients now seek online consultation at AMRI and the number could rise 10 times in three weeks, he felt.
With the decline in OPD numbers, RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) has ‘reverted back aggressively to online consultation as the most convenient method for patients to seek doctors consultation. “We are using radio creatives, the social media, our call centre and website apart from our NH care app to promote online consultations,” said RTIICS zonal head R Venkatesh.
Around 35 doctors have enlisted for video consultations at Peerless Hospital. The number of patients remains low, but the authorities expect an explosion soon. “We have an easy online system of registering through our website. There is a payment gateway, where, once the money is received, the receipt and the time of appointment are sent to the patient,” said Peerless Hospital CEO Sudipta Mitra.
Digital consultations can be useful for patients who need to follow-up on their treatment, said AMRI Salt Lake consultant Debashish Saha. “I have been providing consultations on WhatsApp for several years now, especially to my diabetes patients. They provide me updates on their blood sugar counts and I alter medicine dosage accordingly. Now, we will have multiple online platforms at our disposal letting us reach out to more patients,” said Saha.
Charges are reasonable. While AMRI has been charging Rs 1,500 for specialists and Rs 1,000 for the rest, Peerless has a blanket rate of Rs 700. “With the pandemic showing no signs of ebbing, online consultations will be the backbone of treatment,” said Mitra.
Medica Superspecialty Hospital has reintroduced online consultation in late-April after shutting down its OPD. “All our doctors are doing it and we get around 100-120 patients a day. It starts at 9am and often continues beyond 10pm,” said chairperson Alok Roy.
Source: Times of India