Thirty-three-year-old Pradip Kumar’s visit to the Outpatient Department (OPD) at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) eight years ago was a back-breaking experience. His then two-year-old son Satyam was referred to the hospital because of a severe stomachache.
Traveling from Najafgarh, a suburb on the outskirts of Delhi, Kumar and Satyam reached the hospital gates at 3 am even though the gates would open an hour later. This early arrival ensured that they were relatively ahead in a second queue outside the OPD counter, which opens at 9 am.
By the time they managed an appointment with a doctor, the duo had waited, on average, for six hours in various queues. Kumar had to go through this tortuous schedule several times in a three-week period before he and his son finally saw a doctor. Satyam was diagnosed with a kidney ailment, due to which the family kept making several rounds to the hospital through the years, but the wait never got shorter – until last year.
In February 2016, Kumar was in for a pleasant surprise when he visited AIIMS for his son’s follow-up. On entering the hospital, Kumar was immediately guided by a patient coordinator who helped him schedule an appointment through a brand new digital kiosk. All he needed to do was to key in his son’s unique hospital identification (UHID) number, and in a matter of seconds he had an appointment. “I couldn’t believe [a smoother patient experience] was possible simply by tapping on a screen,” Kumar says.
What Satyam didn’t know was that he was among the early beneficiaries of a unique public–private partnership project between AIIMS and TCS that was unveiled in December 2015. To streamline operations at the chaotic hospital complex, patients were segregated based on the type of appointment (pre-booked or current). Then, a paramedical team was introduced at the reception to map diseases to the relevant department. The number of OPD counters were increased to process patient registration, and a single-window exit counter was created for post-consultation activities.
Five simple steps to complete an AIIMS OPD visit:
- Segregation at the patient reception center based on fast-track, current booking, or UHID status
- Patient identification based on fast-track, current booking, or attendant status using blue, orange, or purple bands, respectively, and entry into the waiting room
- Entry scan at the main OPD
- Exit scan after processing at the OPD
- Single-window exit counter
A barcoded sticker on patients’ OPD cards, which are scanned at the entry and exit to the hospital, provides details of the concerned department and unit. Color-coded bands help categorize people at the OPD – patients with appointment, the ones without appointments, and family members accompanying patients. Patients who cannot be accommodated on the day of their consultation can take an appointment for the next day at one of the single-window exit counters, where all post-consultation activities are performed.
The results? The average waiting time for patients has been reduced from six hours to two; 73% of patients now come with prior appointment as against 20% earlier. The average processing time per patient at the OPD counter has been reduced to less than one minute. About 10,000 patients are now able to consult doctors daily within two hours of arrival, as against an average waiting period of 25 days earlier. Only 30% of the patients visiting AIIMS could avail consultations earlier – now no one leaves the hospital without seeing a doctor.
"I couldn’t believe [a smoother patient experience] was possible simply by tapping on a screen."