Hospitals go the virtual way as health apps gain popularity

An increasing number of hospitals are now using customised and popular mobile applications to reach out to patients.
By Snehal Tripathi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 06, 2015 07:29 AM IST

An increasing number of hospitals are now using customised and popular mobile applications to reach out to patients.

These mobile apps are also helping patients to seek appointments, get ready reckoners and get laboratory reports on their smartphones, saving them a visit to the hospital.

Max Healthcare launched Max MyHealth application for Android and iOS users last month. The app provides patients immediate access to doctors, emergency services, cost transparency and personal healthcare. The app can be also used to book and pay for an annual health check-up, home-care services, cancel appointments, find directions to the nearest Max hospital, view lab reports and use payment option for non-paid appointments using multiple payment methods.

“It is a bit like choosing your airline seat online; patients can now choose doctors and slot an appointment with them through the app. We plan to roll out this app to other mobile platforms as well like Windows and start voice-activation for people with disabilities,” said Anas Abdul Wajid, director of sales and marketing, Max Healthcare.

Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj encourages people to use WhatsApp to fix appointments and give feedback, including on resolution of complaints. “Apart from reaching us online, patients can contact us directly through mobile messaging applications like WhatsApp,” said Dr Param Hans Mishra, medical superintendent, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

On call

Then there’s the subscription website ‘Doctor on call (DOC)’ on 0120-4886500, where people can buy annual plans that entitles them to medical services. The gold plan costs Rs 2000 annually and offers subscriber free blood tests, 24x7 doctor and nutritionist access, special discounts and home visits. The Silver Plan is for Rs 1,500 and offers all of the above sans home visits.

Patients can register themselves on the website by clicking on ‘CALL ME BACK’ option. They will be asked to enter their names, email id and phone number. DOC officers either connect patients with a general physician or fix and share appointments/check-up details.

Rohini-resident Rakesh Arora, 50, called — Doctor on call— when his wife suddenly fell ill at midnight last week.

“They recommended medicines that helped her feel better. She was fine within a couple of hours. Also, about months ago, my mother too consulted doctors on phone for itching in her eyes,” said Arora.

“We are aiming at patients not needing to go to hospitals. They can to speak to doctors on phone,” said Dr Randhir Sud, director, Doctor On Call.

Even government hospitals are gradually going the virtual way with the Delhi government and hospitals like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) having started patient registration online.

AIIMS’ Trauma Centre also provides online information on wait period for various procedures, number of patients seen, admissions and discharges made in a day, etc. that gets automatically updated every minute.

“We started it because people were complaining about being unaware of how long they were to wait to get a test done or get their wound dressed. We wanted a mechanism in place to see where things were going wrong and how we could inform people about the exact wait time,” said Dr Deepak Agrawal, professor, neurosurgery at the hospital.

Telemedicine

Tele-consultation, telemedicine, online registration, live surgeries relayed online, etc. all come under the ambit of mobile health.

Online consultation is proving to be a boon for people living in tier two - tier three cities for whom it is not feasible to travel to the metropolitan cities to seek a second opinion or even for frequent follow ups.

Patients who are diagnosed for any tertiary level procedure/ surgery/ medical intervention tend to seek a second opinion before they undergo the procedure.

Since the popular doctors of the country largely live in metropolitan cities, getting access to them becomes an issue for these patients, and online facilities help bridging this gap.

“It allows patients to seek medical care without personally visiting a doctor. With this technology, they are also able to share their medical reports for diagnosis and consultation. I get queries and even report images on WhatsApp,” said Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo Hospitals that has 120 telemedicine centres running.

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