One of the largest and first-of-its kind studies to assess ‘What Ails India’ has found that fever is the most common reason that leads patients to visit doctors. The study, based on analyses of 5,54,146 ailments reported in 2,04,912 patients’ visits has also revealed that hypertension is the most common diagnosis reported by physicians in India. This apart, respiratory problems are another major reason for visits to doctors.
Published online on Wednesday in The Lancet Global Health, the Prevalence of Symptoms on a Single Indian Healthcare Day on a Nationwide Scale (POSEIDON) study was conducted across the country on February 1, 2011 by Pune-based Chest Research Foundation, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology in New Delhi and Cipla Ltd.
“We randomly selected 12,000 general practitioners, general physicians, and paediatricians from 880 cities and towns and invited them to record demographic details, symptoms and medical conditions for every patient they saw on Feb 1, 2011. An additional 1,250 physicians were requested to be a part of this study and eventually 13,250 doctors from across India participated in this study. On one day, all physicians kept a record of every single patient they saw in their clinic and data was later analysed showed that the most common reason for visiting a doctor in India was fever (35%), which means infections are one of the most common reason for a doctor visit,’’ Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director of Chest Research Foundation told The Indian Express.
According to the analyses, a doctor saw 25 patients on an average daily, which means around 40 million patients visit a doctor every day. Over 50 per cent of patients visited a doctor for a respiratory problem and half of them had symptoms suggestive of respiratory tract infections. The remaining half had presence of chronic respiratory symptoms. Sixty-five per cent of pediatric patients visited a doctor for a respiratory problem, making respiratory ailments the biggest health burden in India. Twenty-five per cent of patients visited the doctor for a gastrointestinal problem and 15 per cent for a circulatory problem.
Only 40 per cent of patients who visited a doctor were labeled to have a specific diagnosis. The most common diagnosis reported was hypertension (12.52%). Twenty-one per cent of those labeled to have hypertension were aged under 40, indicating that a large number of young people suffer from hypertension.
Patients of hypertension were reported more frequently from cities and towns with population greater than 1 million, suggesting it is more of an urban problem. Asthma and COPD, together called Obstructive Airways Diseases, was the second most common diagnosis reported (12.51%). Asthma was the most common diagnosis reported by pediatricians. Anaemia was the fourth most common diagnosis reported, and it was three times more common in females of child bearing age. Diabetes was the fifth most common diagnosis reported.
“Of the world’s 7.5 billion population in 2015, as many as 1.2 billion people live in India. Around 18 per cent of global deaths and 20 per cent of loss of global disability-adjusted life years occur here, making it a country with one of the highest disease burdens in the world. Healthcare in India is provided by 1.5 million practitioners registered with Medical Council of India of which 0.7 million are trained in modern medicine and 0.8 million in alternative forms of medicine. Hence, we wanted to study reasons for which a patient visits a doctor. We can use that knowledge to help drive health policies,” Salvi said.
The study also found that not all the sick visit a doctor, which means the burden of sick people in India is much higher. More males visited a doctor than females and this difference was greater in the pediatric age group, suggesting gender bias. Also, only 8% of the patients who visited a doctor were aged over 65, suggesting that old people do not visit a doctor as much as they should.