Now, patients visiting the All India Institute of Medical Sciences can fix appointments with doctors over phone. The appointments will be done by an automated voice response system. If the call is made from a cellphone, you will receive an SMS, confirming the appointment.
“For appointments, patients can call 9266092660, select the department, give his or her choice of doctor, if any, and dates,” Dr Deepak Aggarwal, head of the IT cell at AIIMS, said.
The pilot run of the appointment by phone started from August 15 and the hospital, on an average, is getting 1,500 calls every day, Dr Aggarwal said.“The idea is to ensure that the number of patients visiting the hospital everyday is manageable, different departments give appointments to 80-200 patients a day and people do not jump queue,” he said.
Already, AIIMS has an online system of booking appointments with doctors. The system, kept optional after it was introduced two months ago, has been made mandatory from September 1 for all patients — new or old — who want to see doctors in the OPD.
“For the benefit of outstation patients, besides the phone and online appointment systems, we will have a 25 per cent tatkal quota for walk-in patients,” Dr Aggarwal said.
Still, under the online system also, the waiting period for an appointment is long, sometimes stretching weeks. For example, in the ENT department, the wait can stretch up to six weeks. In dermatology, it can be up to three weeks.
AIIMS Director Dr M C Misra said these were teething troubles, which had to be endured to ensure the “culture of long queues for OPD appointments is done away with”.
“There will be some problems initially, but slowly people are getting used to the new systems. Like in the railways, we have kept a tatkal quota for the benefit of patients referred from other states. In every department, 25 per cent of appointments will be reserved for walk-in patients, but we need to embrace online or telephonic appointments if we want to end this culture of waiting periods for a simple OPD appointment,” Dr Misra said.
He said it was a myth that waiting periods for appointments was restricted to the government sector. “In India, in the private sector, and even in the West, for elective appointments waiting periods run into months,” Dr Misra said.
He said to avoid “straining of resources” at AIIMS, other hospitals, particularly private ones, should thoroughly evaluate patients before referring them to AIIMS. “A hospital in Noida sent us three dead bodies in an ambulance. Before referring a patient, hospitals should consult the referral hospital, ensure treatment facilities are available and properly evaluate the patient,” he said.
He said the AIIMS trauma centre, on an average, receives one patient everyday who cannot be saved or is already dead. “For a year now, we send reports to medical superintendents and emergency medical officers of every hospital on cases they refer to us. We also send a copy of the reports to the director general of health services, still such patients are sent in ambulances, often without doctors,” he said.
A live patient statistics display system will be among innovations that will be inaugurated on September 4.