Few months ago, a deadly and prodigious human adversity was unfolded in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar, inflicting death of more than a hundred children. Due to this outbreak, children between the age group of one to ten lost their fight against an epidemic acute encephalitis syndrome (commonly known as AES). Also, following non-availability of doctors and proper staff, most of the AES patients remained unattended despite the accessibility of medicines and equipment.
As it stands, the Indian Healthcare industry is facing an underlying challenge of the unavailability of medical specialists/doctors, preventing a vast number of patients from accessing timely treatments. However, this issue of non-availability or absenteeism of doctors & medical workers is more profound in the rural districts.
With a hitch of doctor's absenteeism, the public healthcare delivery system is saddling up. As a matter of fact, the circumstances of healthcare workers’ unavailability or absenteeism bolsters upon multiple grounds.
Availability of Doctors and their Absenteeism Rate in India
As per the Indian Journal of Public Health research, carried out in the year 2014, there were only four practicing doctors per 10,000 people in the country. Whereas, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the availability of one doctor per 1,000 people i.e. an ideal doctor-population ratio is 1:1,000.
As per WHO reports, the density of doctors of all types (Allopathic, Ayurvedic, Unani and Homeopathic) in 2001, at the national level was 80 doctors per 100,000 of the population (i.e. 79.7 per lakh) whereas the density of nurses was 61 per 100,000 (i.e. 61.3 per lakh).
The availability of medical practitioner is a crucial element in providing quality healthcare and it not just depends on healthcare budget or number of vacant posts filled by medical professionals but also relies on ensuring their availability.
According to 2011 census data, the absenteeism rates reached up to 39.3% for healthcare providers, 43.1% for doctors, 30.2% for lab technicians and 40.0% for nurses. However, 37.0% of patients visits were recorded where not a single doctor was available.
Stated Reasons for Doctors’ Absence
The effective availability of doctors in rural communities depends not only on the number of sanctioned (authorized) positions but also on the fraction of unfilled positions and the absence of doctors in filled positions.
Several other reasons may include lack of infrastructure, inadequate medical facilities or absence of basic amenities for doctors & staff; especially in the rural areas due to which doctors are unwilling to serve there, leading to high doctors’ absenteeism rate in the urban-rural regions compared to metropolitan cities.
Attrition in the strength of medical professionals transpiring due to emigration, discontinuance of medical practices, retirement, inadequate medical qualification, etc. are some of the stated reasons impacting the availability of health professionals in India.
In 2019, the scientists have recorded a shortage of nearly 600,000 doctors and approximately 2 million nurses in India. The circumstances surrounding doctor’s absenteeism or non-availability may include the ready opportunity for doctors to be a private healthcare provider (claiming private earning) along with working at public hospitals or clinics.
However, some of the other reasons fostering high absenteeism rates of health professionals in hospitals/clinics can be the income disproportion within the practitioner in the states and motivating them to engage with other multiple private hospitals to earn better for paying their debt.
Another most common reason is traveling interstate for practicing. Due to this large distance commute, medical professionals are not interested to travel in remote areas for practicing, and neither do they don’t want to live in remote areas.
The Current Scenario of Biometric Implementation in Hospitals
With technical reformation becoming the need of an hour, biometric technology has been deemed as the future of the healthcare sector for enhancing doctor’s availability & accountability in the hospital, better time-management and extending patient security.
Steering through the tide of digital identities, groundbreaking technology like Biometrics is outstretching the healthcare industry by leveraging the field of medical science. In a bid to maintain healthcare worker’s punctuality by recording their check-in/out timings, several Indian government hospitals are deploying modern-day and reliable biometric time-attendance systems.
Healthcare centers are implementing biometric scanner devices not only to maintain the punctuality of healthcare professionals & workers but also for precise patient verification and controlling the access within the premises of a hospital.
The Government Hospitals in Jaipur, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Chennai and many other cities of India has already implemented Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Attendance System to mark the attendance of doctors & staff for reaching hospitals on time, enabling real-time attendance monitoring on a daily basis.
Biometric technology is, currently, being implemented in the healthcare industry across many countries, including the United States, Singapore, Kenya, etc. largely for the purpose of patient verification. Besides, in the year 2017, Malaysia enacted biometric fingerprint readers in medical clinics for the identification of foreign workers under health & medical screening program.
Benefits of Biometric Technology to Hospital Industry
The perks of incorporating biometric technology in the hospital industry are manifold. Some of them are mentioned here:
- Recording the clock-in and clock-out timings of the doctors.
- Monitoring doctor’s availability in the OPDs.
- Scheduling the duties of the doctors, in case more than the required numbers of doctors are present in the same unit or absence of any doctor in particular medical branch/unitis recorded during an emergency.
- Optimizing the visit routines of each doctor in the hospital.
- Maintaining the record of the day and night shift of the health professionals & staff.
- Registering, recording and monitoring attendance of medical apprentice.
- Marking the overtime of doctors, nurses and staff in hospitals.
Realizing the astounding advantages of the next-generation biometric technology, the Medical Council of India has made it mandatory to install a Biometric-enabled Attendance System in Government Medical College and Hospitals (GMCH).
Future Prospect of Biometric in Hospital Industry
Biometrics has been a game-changer for the healthcare sector of multiple countries, enabling hospitals to streamline the attendance procedure of healthcare professionals, enrich patient care, scrutinize doctor’s availability along with accountability and lowering the patient rush.
“Biometrics can not only help in ensuring the availability but also ensures accountability of professionals in hospitals and can be proved as an corner stone for providing excellent patient care.”
~ Mr. Hiren Bhandari (Technical Director of Mantra Softech India Pvt. Ltd.)
Apart from hospitals, medical insurance companies, in partnership with healthcare providers have also introduced Biometric Authentication Systems to counter the issues of identity theft and fraud.
Recently, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh state governments have launched the Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS), under which all the empanelled state hospitals will have to implement biometric fingerprint scanners for verification of beneficiaries claiming health insurance coverage. The governments of all these states have also sent circulation to the private hospitals in the state to get empanelled under CMCHIS and install biometric identification systems for identifying the beneficiaries.
To be in tandem with the changing times, the healthcare industry in India is embracing new-generation Biometric Identification Technology. As Biometrics is widely accepted in India; large to small private hospital chain, government hospital or flagship healthcare programs are now adopting advanced biometric fingerprint, IRIS, palm-vein or facial devices to ensure availability, accountability with high degree of operational excellence in daily operation.
With technology based innovations offering tremendous opportunities in healthcare sector, the potential of Biometric technology is astronomical.
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