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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Enhancing the Outreach of Community Medicine Field Team Through Mobile Phones - A Pilot Study

Author(s): Dr. Surya Bali, Dr. Amarjeet Singh

Vol. 31, No. 2 (2006-04 - 2006-06)

Commensurate with the revolutionalization of the field of communication in our routine lives, the mobile phones (MPs) have made their presence felt in health care system also.

Against this background it was felt that MPs could also be used by Community Medicine departments to enhance the outreach of senior resident (SR) in Naraiangarh. Rural field practice areas, Senior Resident (SR) gave his mobile phone numbers stamped on OPD slips to about 400 patients, 13 municipal committee members, 25 Anganwadi workers, 12 Sarpanches, 9 Mahila Mandals for three months. All were told that they were free to consult the SR Com.Med. anytime any day for any type of medical consultation on phone. Phone calls were attended and a record was maintained on a personal pocket diary. Particulars of calls were entered in computer record each day in evening after 10 PM daily.

Till 31st July, 2005, we had received 62 calls. 18 were about enquiry of availability of doctors on a particular OPD day for follow up, 6 regarding change in medicines prescribed eariler, 6 about gynecological disorders, 5 regarding sexual problems, 5 about immunization enquiry and 2 about infertility consultation. Four persons taken counseling advice on mobile phone different psychological disorders and family problems. Remaining 16 calls sought advice on treatment for general problems like diarrhea, backache, vomiting, fever, hypertension, pain during menstruation and joint pains, skin allergy, chest pain and rheumatic heart disease, seizure, dental problems etc. Almost half of the calls (29) were made in between 7 to 9 PM, 13 were early in the morning and remaining 20 calls were during OPD time. Out of these calls, most of the calls (39) were made by males. 21 calls were from neghbouring villages and 32 were from urban Nariangarh where the hospital is situated and remaining 9 calls were out of district (other district).

So, this brief initial feedback indicates that the public at large is quite receptive to the idea of use of mobile phones for medical consultation. Actually, the concept of enhancing the outreach of Community Physicians through use of mobile phone in rural areas is rather new and has a wide scope for future development.

Use of mobile phones can also help to overcome patient's fear to face the doctor while discussing sensitive problems. Use of mobile phones can also overcome the oft-quoted barriers to treatment seeking e.g. lack of time, money, shyness, privacy etc. in remote areas and particularly for females. Sometimes, shyness or privacy are the reasons for not coming to hospital.

Patients can use MPs and hide their identity except their medical problems so privacy and secrecy can be maintained. The main advantage of MPs based health care seeking is that the client (caller) or the provider (receiver) can be anywhere away from their home / office site. Special utility of this mode of consultation is during night or during emergency to guide the patients for proper care, seeking appointments, and checking the availability of doctors, discussing private and sensitive matters, IEC activities, counseling etc. A special feature of mobile phone that is Short Messaging (SMS) can also be used for prescriptions. Of course, such use of MPs will be confined to those who have an access to phones.

Dr. Surya Bali, Senior Resident
Dr. Amarjeet Singh, Addl. Professor
School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh
E-mail: [email protected]
Received: 12.9.2005

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