Doctors cite instances where their CREDENTIALS ARE QUESTIONED both by their own ilk and by patients

A patient referred for a particular test to a reputed private hospital by her consulting ophthalmologist was not given the test results though her doctor had specifically instructed that she be given the results. The ophthalmologist sent the patient back to the hospital with a request for the results as they were necessary to make the diagnosis.

The doctor who faced this situation said, “The patient had to undergo the test and very few hospitals have the equipment to perform it. As we needed the results to make the correct diagnosis, we had to send the patient back to the hospital. Such situations are a burden on the patient.”

Doctors cite several instances where their credentials are questioned both by their own ilk and by the patients or their family. The Supreme Court’s order of compensation of over Rs. 5 crore to NRI doctor Kunal Saha for medical negligence last year, has rattled the medical fraternity considerably, say doctors.

M. Balasubramanian, State president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), says, “We welcome second opinion as it is the right of the patient. The IMA aims to ensure dignity of the profession, quality in patient care and improving medical education.”

Doctors say though they consider patient care as team work, demand from patients for some classified hospital documents and viewing the doctors with suspicion demoralises the medical fraternity. “Some patients take photos on their mobile phones of the case sheets which are given only during discharge,” he says.

While the IMA has instructed members to allow consultants to visit their patients in the hospital and see the records, it draws a line when it comes to accessing all information. “Medical profession is like walking the tight rope. Patient faith is important and viewing the consultant with suspicion is harmful to the patient too,” he points out.

It’s been about eight months since the formal launch of NATHEALTH, a common platform where stakeholders work together to improve access and quality to healthcare. And in a meeting held in Chennai recently, president Shivinder M. Singh and secretary general Anjan Bose said the forum had come a long way.

“One of the main reasons this forum was set up was because of a trust deficit in the health sector. Bringing together hospitals, nursing homes, device manufacturers and others in the healthcare business has been a huge victory. We are now in the process of getting ready a white paper focussing on what the healthcare sector should be doing in the next 10-15 years,” said Mr. Singh.

NATHEALTH, which aims at enhancing skills, bridging infrastructure hurdles and promoting innovation, among others, now has members from across the country on board, including big and small hospitals, he said.

The idea is to allow doctors and hospitals to see what they can gain by coming on board and to gain from their expertise as well.

One of the areas NATHEALTH is looking forward to promoting is innovation: “Here, we can bring together experienced professionals, people with capital and people with ideas,” said Mr. Singh.

Another area they are excited to be in is mobile health — using the country’s widespread mobile coverage to help improve access to healthcare, said Mr. Bose.

But what the forum really wants to achieve is to create minimum quality standards, make them affordable and widespread. “We also want to, in the future, set up an ethics module and take it national,” Mr. Singh said.

The last few months have presented challenges — how to unify small and medium players being one — but the going has been very good so far, the two said.

(Reporting by R. Sujatha and Zubeda Hamid)

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