Time to Digitize Healthcare System

A digitalized, computerized system of appointments and accessing records could change the healthcare delivery system in J&K. Government needs to ease up its acceptance and ease out the hardships patients face
Time to Digitize Healthcare System
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J&K boasts of an efficient Government-run Healthcare System. Without doubt, the Government Hospitals are where over 90 percent of people, as per estimates, run to in case of emergencies, accidents and all kinds of conditions requiring medical attention. However, that is not a measure of efficiency, and must not be taken as one by the administrators.

In any hospital of J&K, medical records are but flimsy reams of paper, piled up into dingy rooms, never to be retrieved again for reference or records. A patient carries scraps of hospital paper, scarce in details of investigations, complaints, diagnosis and treatments, for future visits and often ends up repeating investigations and wasting precious time and money.

A computerized system of patient and medical records could prove a game changer in the healthcare system of J&K. It could help in elevating the treatment system and the quality of care. It could assist in medical research which in itself seems to be suffering a disease of regression. However, no steps are being taken to bring about this much needed change.

In most hospitals, the task of making an appointment with a doctor is a mammoth one. Beelines of people is not just a cosmetic issue but also affects the efficiency of healthcare delivery. A patient from the farthest of districts has to make it to hospitals, queue up hours and often finds the entire exercise a waste when a particular specialist is unavailable on that day or in that hospital. A system to make appointments possible with online booking does not exist yet in any of the hospitals, not even in the most advanced SKIMS Soura. A specialist’s appointment is after a second round of queuing up, the first for just a rejection.

Even the most sick or those in difficult circumstances such as advanced pregnancies are made to suffer for want of a system. A visit to any maternity hospital could shake the conscience of the planners: the sight when a woman, unable to carry her weight, spends multiple difficult hours for two minutes in the doctor’s cabin.

A system that could help patients seek appointments while they have not ventured out is possible with a basic appointment software. It would help hospitals save resources. A patient could list his complaints and seek consultation from a doctor while sitting at home. He or she could get a slot and that would save the poor masses the money they spend while travelling to the City and the hours and workdays lost in the process. However, no steps have been taken to make it possible.

When a patient is in the hospital, the battery of tests and investigations is another ordeal. From giving a sample to taking a report, it is no less than a puzzle or a maze. Many more visits are often needed to get results and reports. All of this could be made easier if the investigation reports are made available online and a patient could download these. Or that the patient gets a notification on his or her phone that the reports are ready and they could visit to collect these. Although SKIMS Soura has started this service, all other hospitals are yet to venture into this patient facility retaining their systems to the era of yesteryears. Many of the private laboratories in Kashmir have already moved on to the digitalized system of patient reports, yet our Government healthcare sector continues to lag behind even with the power of money and resources at their disposal.

The Cowin website of the GoI is an example at hand. Billions of appointments were fixed and billions of records are updated regularly on the site. Those getting vaccinated are also notified and their records are available online. It could be taken as a template to begin the process of online and easy to access medical records and reports.

Websites of hospitals could be created, where not existing and updated where already existing. These could help in making the information about services, OPDs and appointments accessible to everyone. The rudimentary websites however are just an eyewash in the name of digitalization and often have the outdated content. The only content that these pages update on time are the changes in the display picture of the officials and Government functionaries in charge.

A software for Hospital Management System could help manage the resources better, make the process of seeking treatment less cumbersome. A user-friendly system is a possibility and not a very difficult one, given our administrators have the will to make healthcare delivery in the Government system really an efficient one. Healthcare quality is as important as the quantity – the number of patients seen in OPDs and the ones admitted, the data that bolsters the pride of J&K’s Healthcare system.

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