Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Online healthcare services mushroom

Patients must be judicious in making selections, say doctors


Finding a doctor is easier now than it’s probably ever been. Go online, log on to one of several portals that offer searches for doctors and book an appointment. With the mushrooming of online healthcare services, for patients, there are a plethora of options. But while patients and some doctors find these portals and apps immensely useful, other doctors express apprehension over them.

On websites such as Practo.com, s10health.com and medreach.in, you can look for a doctor by specialty, name, name of the clinic or even the area you want to go to. Some offer details of consultation fees, one gives feedback from other patients and one allows you to ask for a doctor’s opinion online.

For patients, these services have been a boon. “Last year, my cousin contracted a skin allergy. I was looking for a skin specialist in Anna Nagar and I went online. The website gave me a list of options in the area I wanted, it listed reviews, fees and appointment times. I found a doctor, and my experience was very good,” said V. Vinoth Kumar, a software engineer.

The Practo Ray software, which allows doctors to upload and access medical records digitally among other things has been both convenient and easy for record-keeping and inventory, said K. Dhanasekhar, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, Apollo Children’s Hospital. “The website makes it easy for patients to find me and book appointments. They get a confirmation and so do I, and the system alerts me when the appointment is due,” he said.

Some doctors, however, say there are advantages and disadvantages. Mohan Rajan, medical director, Dr. Rajan Eye Care Hospitals, said such services were not always reliable. “If you’ve just moved to a city, such services are great. The problem is in figuring out whether you’re going to the right doctor. Patients must use these services judiciously, shortlist and decide based on first-hand information,” said Janani Shankar, senior consultant paediatrician, Kanchi Kamakoti Childs Trust Hospital.

Going by the numbers from the companies though, the services seem hugely popular. According to a representative of Practo, the service is offered in around 30 cities with 1,40,000 doctors on it and millions of users on its website per month. Sridharan Sivan, founder, S10 Health, said in an email that their Chennai user base was roughly 1,50,000 and around 500 online appointments were booked on the website daily.

“Every single doctor on our website has been physically verified. To make it easier for patients, we have a feedback system that can be used to decide which doctor you want to go to. Our intent is not to replace traditional methods of finding a doctor, just augment them – we provide the information and patients can take an informed decision based on it,” said a Practo representative.

 Source : the Hindu

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