online doctor search

Online doctor search : important tips for patients

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Every time you need a doctor , you go online to search for them. often you end up booking an appointment with someone you really repent. these are few must know facts which will help you find a doctor you actually need.

1. where to search a doctor online?

Doctor search sites.

Practo is a leading company in the online doctor search in India and provides  both physical and online access to doctors. 

It has pan India presence, and has more than 100,000 doctors associated with it.

Beside doctors search it also provide following services.

  1. online consultation with doctors 
  2. online ordering of medications
  3. online ordering of investigations
  4. practice related software for doctors
 
If you know the type of doctor ( specializations / expertise / degree)   you are looking for, Practo is the best place to explore.

lyberate is a relatively smaller player limited to metros only and growing into tier ii and iii cities.

It predominately concentrates on online and offline consultations with doctors.

Social media sites

linkedin

Almost all doctor use LinkedIn for maintaining their professional connections with other colleagues.

 

If you know the doctors name , LinkedIn is probably the best site to see following details of a doctor 

  • professional qualifications,
  • institutional associations
  • work experience and affiliations
  • areas of expertise of the doctor
  • popularity in its fraternity
 

LinkedIn does not allow people to communicate with the unconnected people, so the appointment has to be booked from a appointment booking site only.

Twitter

Twitter is also gaining popularity among doctors. twitter is best site to for casual interaction with unknown / unconnected people.

 You can use twitter to contact and share information with the doctor , if you know the name.

You can search using hashtag names of the medical condition of your interest. you will find lot of patients , doctors and hospitals/ clinics sharing their experiences. YOU CAN CONNECT WITH ANY OF THEM DIRECTLY.

2. Online consultation or physical consultation in clinic ?

Physical consultation in clinic  should to be the choice.

 

Online consultation : Avoid if possible

Some companies do offer the option of consulting the doctor on phone, chat or video, which defeat the very purpose of consultation.

It is not possible in most of the clinical conditions to diagnose and give a medical advise without actually examining a patient.

A complain of heart burn may be a sign of an actual heart attack. It is cheap but has high risk for the patient.

Its a huge risk on the part of patient because the advise given by a doctor without complete medical examination is likely to be incomplete or all together incorrect.

This will also delay the patient from physically seeing a doctor.

Also read

3. Things to be sure before starting the online search for doctor

  • Be sure of the doctor you want see, before you search.
  • Be sure of your medical condition.
  • Your actual purpose of consultation.
  • long term cost and expenses

4. use filters to find the doctor of your choice

Most sites provide filters for locating doctors. beside using the location, other filters can also provide important informations about doctor

Availability​

  • Always prefer  a doctor available full time at one location over those which distribute their time at multiple locations.
  • A narrow window of 1-2 hours makes it hard for patient to reach due to distance and traffic.
  • Alternate days or few days a week availability is difficult to remember.
  • Clinic given small time slot by the doctors tend to be understaffed and Underequiped in comparison to clinics where doctors are available fulltime.

Location

  • Most of the successful Doctors are either independently practicing or associated with big hospitals.
  • ln case of specialistor super specialist required for second opinion or any  specialized surgery or procedure, the location and fee  should not be a deciding factor.
  • For routine consultation or regular follow up, a doctor in close locality should see be preferred

Hospitals​

  • Association of doctors with a hospital offers advantages of availability of addmision facility, in house radiology, emergency services which are usually not present in clinics.

Consulation fee

  • It often correlates with seniority,  experience and popularity of a doctor.
  • It also reflect on the long term cost of the treatment.

5. Data privacy and legal issues.

Personal data

  • Personal information” and “sensitive personal data or information” are protected as per government policies.
  • All companies use the non identifiable data for analysis  and research.
  •  You details may be share with sister companies engaged in selling drugs online, or ordering online tests etc.
  • Details are given in the “privacy policy” and “term and condition” of the website, usually available in the footer or header of the website.

Medical data.

  • Medical records are to be maintained by the doctor /hospital you are seeking consultation.
  •  Doctor search sites have a stated policy that they are party to any doctor patient contract that you have with your doctor.
  •  It’s your responsibility to collect the complete prescription /medical records at the end of consultation.
  • in case of a medico-legal dispute, search website will not be involved.

Medico-legal issues

  • NO DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP : all the doctor search sites have a clear policy that they do not own the medico-legal responsibility of the treatment quality or outcome , from a service taken through them. So it is your responsibility to verify the qualification, competence of person you are consulting and the quality of the services you are receiving. 
  • NOT FOR EMERGENCY USE all doctor search sites clearly state that you should not use their services during emergency, but consult the hospital/clinic  directly.

Insurance

  • OPD expenses are covered under regular health cover or it can be added as a top-up 

Please share your comments bellow. please share the post , if you find it useful for others. 

Scientific studies report that most individuals (81%) say that they “learned something new” regarding their health, the last time they went online. The majority (80%) of people found the information through a search engine as reliable.

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doctor discovery website

Online doctor search websites: risks for associated doctors.

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india-1034843__340 (2)Online doctor search websites offers the doctor good online visibility and availability, just like other streams; are there any risks associated with these kind of associations for doctors? I think risks are real and multiple.

I was looking for a dermatologist in the city, and i thought of giving a popular Online doctor search website   a trail. I typed initial alphabets of the word “dermatology”, it showed the list of 30 dermatologists in the city. In spite of the living in the city for 15 years, i could not identify most of them.

Most of the information was expected from Online doctor search website like fee, location, schedule and profile of the listed doctors.  There was enough information available online to actually decide who should be consulted. It has details of ones qualifications, affiliation of present and past and of course, the patient’s reviews. Plus it also had the assurance that if i am not been satisfies by the experience, i can at least write a negative review.

But there were some facts which actually drew my attention. The first 10 dermatologists had almost similar qualification (10 yes post MD) , fee ( 400-600 INR) and reviewer’s ratings (90-100%) and exactly same profile as there was no options of customization of profile for the doctor .

Online doctor search websites: Stay close and be cheap 

adventure-2178442__340Clinical practice has always been different from the online sales of the movie tickets. It’s never actually about the number, though  a good practice is always reflected in patients count. Patient comes to you with a medical issue, often in distress. You establish an emotional rapport and trust with him, and treat him.

A satisfied patient shares that emotional connection and trust with other people which help a doctor to build the reputation in the community.  New patients coming to him are often refereed by older patients.

He/she is already primed about the doctor’s capabilities and knows what to expect. Slowly but steadily doctor build a follower ship of these satisfied patients which maintains a steady flow of new patients and is called a practice.

These Online doctor search websites reduces a doctor to a commodity, presented in a grid fashion, where all are more or less same and meant to be chosen on who is cheaper and conveniently available. Patient has to give star rating about how he felt about the experience. Patient can have hundred reasons why he/she gave a particular review or star rating and the next user has hundred different interpretations of the same review and rating.

There is no room for standing out of the lot, and if you want yourself to be featured ahead of others, than you pay for it. Practice is all about establishing your distinct identity among your colleagues with a separate patient base. You do not compete with your colleagues; you complement them in areas of weakness.

Online doctor search websites are designed so that patients develop loyalty with the site and a long term patient doctor relation could not be established.  If the doctor’s clinic is at a distance, select closer one. If time is not convenient, select some one more convenient to you. If you are not willing to move out, get an online consultation. You cannot contact with the doctor directly, by any means.

 

Also read:

Must know facts for online doctor search.

Medical Tourism : Trends, reasons, and a lesson.

 

Online doctor search websites :Patient inflow

india-1723464__340Very design is such that is redistribute the users among the service provider. So if there are 1000 dermatology patients in a city with   30 registered dermatologists, site will ensure a distribution of these patients among the available doctors, is a way which is cost effective to the users. And how will the service providers compete with each other to increase the patient inflow.

You are available for longer hours and cheaper rates. Those who doubt it can have a lesson from recent OLA and UBER drivers’ strike. People initially joined these companies because they can get customers easily, but soon the number of drivers associated with the network sky rocketed without an associated increase in the number of customers. It forces the company to frame the policies so as equability distribute customers among the associated drives, significantly bringing down the monthly earning, making it non-viable indian-318643__340option for some.

Patient’s personal and health related data 

As of now there were no clear cut guidelines. With drafting of Digital Information Security in Health Care Act.(DISHA), government has defined the policies clearly. It says that Protected Health Information (PHI) includes individually identifiable information which in-turn includes ‘sensitive personal data or information’ (SPI).

The new guidelines state that Protected Health Information (PHI) is owned by the patients and it the duty of the doctor to protect and secure the stored health information on patient’s behalf. Individually identifiable information not only includes name, contact number and Adhar but also the voice recordings of communication between doctor and patient that are non-clinical in nature. The  policies of every doctor search and appointment site clearly state that they are not a party in the doctor-patients relations , which leaves doctor squarely responsible to every contact or communication that happen  between doctor and  patients.

Online doctor search websites :Medico-legal responsibilities

holi-2198066__340There are no legal agreement between Online doctor search websites and doctor regarding the distribution/sharing of the duties/role and information disclosure policies. Online doctor search websites do not take the responsibilities regarding verification of patient identity and obviously take no measures to ensure that.

Some clearly state that they are not responsible if the user provided the incorrect information regarding personal identity. This put the doctor at serious long term medical-legal risks. Most of the websites have the stated policy of sharing patients contact details to third parties, (health information providers, drug supplying companies, investigations labs, taxi companies and so on) or have sister concerns engaged in these business.

Some of the companies encourage doctors to give online consultations on phone, mail, whatapp or similar applications. New regulations clearly state the doctor’s responsibility of ensuring privacy and data protection of patients consulted as these website are clear that they are not a party in doctor – patient contract you are entering in, with the patients.

Online doctor search websites : What happens in developed countries?

This concept of Online doctor search websites, is been there in US and there are few popular websites as well ( zocdoc). HIPPA (1996) clearly define a set of national standards for the protection of health information in US. All the site providing online doctor search and appointment are supposed to be HIPPA compliant. A lack of similar regulation in India could be attributed to proliferation such websites in India, which provide single stop solution for getting everything, from consultation with a doctor to ordering medication and gym membership, and from a single window. A similar lack of awareness among doctors could be a reason for doctors joining them.

One does not need to be a lawyer to negotiate through these offers. The important of being aware of once professional responsibilities cannot be emphasized more. There are two simple rules which can save anyone from landing in any of these risky associations.

  1. Never associate with any online site without diligently reading and understanding the privacy policy and terms and conditions of the site. Later can easily be found on the header or footer section of the site.
  2. Be aware of you responsibilities for patient’s privacy and protection of health information. Complete information is available at  information at the website of ministry of health family welfare, govt of India.