Most developing countries are thickly populated. India alone has a population of more than 1224.6 million people1 which is more than one-sixth of the world’s population. However, for such a huge population, the Doctor –Population Ratio is a frugal 1:17002. This stresses the need for good doctor- patient communication during medical consultations and appointments. Doctors who are always flooded with patients can easily increase patient satisfaction by reducing the patient’s waiting time at the clinic. This is important for patients who are in pain or critically ill or physically challenged.
At the same time, it benefits the doctor by organising the patients as per their needs while making provisions for exceptions and medical emergencies. Patients skipping their appointments prove to be a loss of time and finance for the doctor apart from depriving another needy patient of the doctor’s attention. Hence, the doctor has to ensure that patients keep up with their scheduled appointments.
Here are 4 simple ways to ensure patients keep up their appointments:
1. Patient Education
Patient education remains the most cost effective way to ensure that patients turn up for their appointments. Patients have to be made fully aware of the outcomes of neglecting treatment or taking irregular treatment. More the patient realises the seriousness of his medical condition, more will the patient be keen to follow up on appointments. In small setups, this measure can be taken to ensure cost effectiveness and enhance patient benefit.
In small clinics or hospitals, a receptionist can ensure that patients come for their appointments on time. The receptionist has to ensure that appointments are scheduled and honoured . This is extremely successful where the doctor may have to attend emergencies for example gynaecologists, surgeons, and paediatricians etc. In such cases, the receptionist can inform the patients few hours prior about rescheduling their appointment. This system ensures that even the patient can conveniently reschedule the appointment and does not waste his
3. Electronic/Computerised system
An automated system is of great help is scheduling appointments. A software can be customized to remind patients about their appointments via a recorded voice call or SMS. One need only enter the patient’s name, email Id, mobile number and appointment time in the software. Reminders are sent to the patients about their appointments via mobile phones and or e-mails. This system is of great use for doctors where the consultations time can unexpectedly extend e.g. sonologists, pathologists, consultants etc.
4. Online appointments
This system is immensely useful to hospitals or doctors working in multiple setups. The doctor’s timings, place of clinical practice, which may be one or more as per days of the week can be displayed online. The patient needs to check which day and time suits him and book the time slot accordingly. Also, hospitals can display their array of doctors and their respective time slots and can effectively take appointments for multiple doctors with just a click. This system lets patients easily get appointments without waiting on long calls and choose from a array of doctors. The best way to ensure that patients turn up, is to call and reconfirm with the patient who booked the online appointment. This gives a sense of commitment to the patient, and they are more likely to turn up.
In this way, we can respect the patient’s as well as the doctor’s time, while providing effective and rapid medical care.
- National commission on population
- U Anand Kumar, The New Indian Express (http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/India-has-just-one-doctor-for-every-1700-people/2013/09/22/article1792010.ece). Published 22nd sept 2013
- Pharma Tutor, Pharmacy Infopedia
Original piece by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD