As harbingers of both good and bad news, hospitals can be intimidating for patients right from the outset. Identifying a suitable doctor for consultation, decoding their medical advice, following a set of convoluted instructions thumbtacked on display boards, breaking down the tangled knots of hospital admission paperwork, and health insurance claims can overwhelm anyone. This is further magnified by the possibility of undergoing a medical procedure at the hospital.
How different would this experience be if there was someone to guide them through this rigmarole?
“Most people are emotionally stressed when they enter a hospital,” says Dr Judith Christina Abburi, who joined Practo Care Surgeries (PCS) as a Healthcare Coordinator in July this year, adding, “Adding to their disquiet is the opaque information they discovered on the internet about their symptoms. We are trying to address these problems in secondary healthcare by providing a comprehensive support system to patients with PCS.”
Delivering end-to-end, personalized care to patients
COVID-19 has underscored the need for patient-centred care like never before. This changing landscape offers a promising opportunity to deliver personalized experiences in secondary care across all touchpoints of a patient’s journey – even before they enter a hospital.
“The full continuum of care before and after surgery is fragmented and complex,” says Aditi Singh, Team Lead – Business Development Manager for PCS, adding, “This opens up the scope to deliver an integrated healthcare experience based on seamless coordination between all stakeholders – including physicians, surgeons and insurance companies – managed and supervised by one point of contact.”
These Healthcare Coordinators – labelled Practo Care Assistants under PCS – coordinate all aspects of a surgical procedure for the patient. This includes:
- Booking appointments with experienced doctors
- Identifying the closest surgery center with the right infrastructure
- Providing relevant information about their condition to family members
- Being available to answer additional queries
- Offering preoperative counselling
- Negotiating the best prices for them
- Providing hospital admission support
- Helping in health insurance paperwork
- Facilitating healthcare financing and loans, if required
- Assisting in timely discharge
- Scheduling follow-up appointments, and more.
“The importance of providing this level of support to patients and their families before and after a surgical procedure cannot be emphasized enough,” says Dr Nidhi Shree, PCS Healthcare Coordinator, adding, “Being able to understand the full arc of the evolution of a surgery cycle, and having the concomitant formalities taken care of by capable hands is something patients are happy to accept. Many professionals are involved in any surgery, and having that one point of contact who knows and understands their case as well as they do is something that patients value a lot in a healthcare setting.”
Practo Care Assistants powering secondary care for patients
A Practo Care Assistant may be one piece of a much bigger puzzle working with other stakeholders to fulfil Practo’s mission of strengthening India’s secondary healthcare system, but they are still indispensable to the overall functioning of the service. The help that they provide to ease hospital admission and discharge processes notwithstanding, the role they play in building the confidence and trust of patients seeking secondary care delivers the highest value.
“Patients still lean heavily on our knowledge even after consultation with doctors,” says Dr Nidhi, adding, “In addition to the counselling we offer and keeping family members closely informed, bringing together all the steps to execute a surgical procedure entails being available for the patient and their families on a daily basis. And this may continue even after discharge, if they need help with post-surgery doctor consultations or home delivery of medicines.”
The quality of care offered through PCS in the hands of senior doctors with 15+ years of experience is also exceptional, making patients feel comforted and taken care of. Every patient comes with a different mindset and has requirements unique to their condition. For instance, laser treatment may be a popular cure for piles, but it may not be suitable for all patients. The confidence they have developed in the system and in the doctor’s expertise opens their minds to alternative treatment. However, it is not without its challenges.
“No one is immune to irrational convictions, often fueled by hearsay or what they may have read online,” says Aditi, adding, “Armed with this bias, it can be difficult to help some patients understand their situation better and what the best recourse would be for them, but we are prepared for eventualities like these. These experiences also allow us to grow as professionals. It does not detract from the sense of satisfaction we feel when a patient, at the time of discharge, is happy with the service.”
The skills and qualifications of Practo Care Assistants are challenged every day, but they have landed firmly in their expected roles, and continue to help set the PCS cycle in motion.
“Over time, we have come to understand our roles better, and recognize our membership in a shared community,” says Dr Judith, adding, “To be truly satisfied, one’s core values must align with their career. As doctors first, we have an innate concern for patients, and there is great satisfaction in seeing them happy with a service we helped facilitate. At the end of each day, we are grateful to support a mission committed to strengthening the fabric of India’s secondary care, and in the process, offer hope of something better.”