Times of India
11 October 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Be it sending alerts to patients for a scheduled vaccine, texting a reminder for a quarterly visit or a periodic investigation, more and more city doctors have started to utilise information technology (IT) to enhance patient care, thanks to a new website.
"We all know that our patients forget to take vaccines on scheduled dates and miss scheduled visits for antenatal care. Some also tend to forget follow–up visits, which leads to reduction in the quality of care a doctor provides. In this context, services developed by IT professionals in the city, are helping healthcare providers enhance patient care in a big way," said paediatrician Rajeev Joshi, member, National Executive Committee of the Indian Association for Medical Informatics (IAMI).
As many as 100 doctors, including members of the Indian Medical Association and IAMI have registered themselves with the website, www.arogyamitra.com, to render effective services to patients. There are more doctors who are also making inquiries and showing interest, he added.
"The service is absolutely free for doctors as well as patients. Even patients can register themselves for availing this service. However, they have to put in correct date of birth or in a case of pregnant women, they have to mention date of last menstrual period. The schedule will be calculated and reminder messages will be sent accordingly," said Joshi.
One can set schedule vaccination reminders, antenatal visits, quarterly visits, periodic investigations for chronic diseases, etc. Patients get SMS and email on scheduled dates with a pre–defined message, which is extremely easy to set and be customised by the doctor or hospital management, said diabetologist Rakesh Biswas from Bhopal.
"I started using this service a few weeks ago. Initially, I registered patients who have been visiting me for the last few years or so and sent them SMS reminders through Arogyamitra to take swine flu vaccine. Several patients responded positively to the message. Several families called for appointment and came to take the vaccine," said gynaecologist Dipti Panchnadikar.
Elaborating on patients feedback about the service, Joshi said, "I asked a few patients about their reactions. The response has been very positive. All of them were happy to receive such suggestions, as most were confused regarding swine flu vaccination and not sure whether they should take it or not. I asked them whether they felt that it was marketing initiative. Most of them said that since it was from the doctor they knew, they did not think it that way. Others said it does not matter even if it’s a marketing initiative; we get hundreds of senseless messages every week, anyway. This one is truly in our own interest."
"This and similar services are being offered free of cost to all doctors. We have also plans to develop a partnership with doctors who want to support enhanced doctor–patient communication. I am sure this will substantially increase the hospital revenue from forgotten visits and also improve patient relationship considerably. It will also help completion of vaccination and reduction of disease–load substantially," said Uday Thatte, director, Hitech Medical Information, and the man behind the website.
"This is an excellent initiative. SMS reminders for clinic appointments and vaccination reminders especially for paediatrics is a great application of this simple technology," Thanga Prabhu, secretary, Indian Association for Medical Informatics, said.