Let us trace the journey of a patient visiting a hospital as an outpatient. As the patient walks into the hospital, the first person that he or she comes into contact with is usually the security staff and the front desk or reception desk. Thereafter, he or she is directed to go to the registration section to register his or her file. After consultation with the doctor, the patient is referred to the laboratory or the radiology department for diagnostic tests. Prior to actually getting the tests done, the patient comes into contact with the cash and billing staff to pay for the investigations. Once the investigations are complete, the patient goes back to the concerned physician for a follow-up and prescription. The medication is procured from the pharmacy and then the patient leaves the healthcare facility.
The dynamics are quite different for the patients when they are admitted as inpatients. Once admitted, they must visit the cash and billing section to pay an advance prior to admission, and if health insurance, too, is involved, then meeting the administrative office is also mandatory. The patients then get in touch with the support staff – including customer service and security – who guide them to their respective wards. During the course of the hospital stay, numerous visits by allied health professionals and dieticians are inevitable. Finally, at the time of discharge, a second visit must be made to the cash and billing counter to settle the final bill, and to the pharmacy to claim refunds for returned medication and to purchase medication prescribed at discharge.
As one can see, there are numerous ways for patients to lose their way and run from pillar to post if hospital systems do not work properly. The very thought of having to do this while physically unwell is distressing.
The low global ranking of the Indian healthcare system re-emphasises the need to assess and strengthen the way healthcare services are delivered. The approach is important since healthcare services, more than any other, depends on the human touch. On one hand, the communication that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel establish with patients is crucial in aiding the patients to adopt life-changing healthcare practices. On the other hand, communication among the members of the healthcare team plays an important role in ensuring a smooth and error-free approach to healthcare. Errors can easily be prevented by adopting small changes in the system.
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