Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has achieved 95% response rate for its Urgent Consultation Service since its launch during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Launched in March 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19 and suspension of face-to-face outpatient appointments, the Urgent Consultation Service offers medical consultations to patients with urgent but non-life-threatening conditions via telemedicine with options available for video or audio consultations.
Dr Khalid al-Rumaihi, head of urology at HMC, and manager of the Urgent Consultation Service said it received 197,000 calls between its launch and December 31, 2020, with a 95% response rate.
A recent customer satisfaction survey, conducted on 1,000 service users, showed that 88% of the respondents expressed their satisfaction with the service, while 90% of those surveyed recommended that the service remain in place even after the end of the pandemic.
HMC recently held an event to celebrate the success of the service. Present at the celebration were 30 representatives and heads of departments that contributed to the implementation of the service. Dr Abdulla al-Ansari, HMC’s chief medical officer, presented certificates of appreciation to the honorees and thanked all staff members who contributed to the implementation of the Urgent Consultation Service. He also confirmed that the service will remain in place in the future.
The Urgent Consultation Service was launched in a record time of seven days with support of various departments at HMC, including the departments of Health Information and Communication Technology, Engineering, Human Resources, Communications, Health Facilities Development, as well as the support of the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
The telephone-based service allows patients to speak to healthcare professionals to obtain appropriate diagnosis for their conditions so that necessary actions can be taken without the need to visit the hospital. The service can be accessed by calling the health sector’s hotline number (16000) and then selecting the HMC Urgent Consultation Service option (option 3).
“The Urgent Consultation Service is staffed by around 150 physicians and currently available for 15 different specialties, namely: urology, orthopedics, ENT, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, general medicine, cardiology, dermatology, paediatrics, dentistry, mental health, neurology, pain management, geriatrics, and oncology,” said Dr al-Rumaihi.
The Urgent Consultation Service offers patients a range of healthcare services, including medical consultations, new prescriptions, prescription refills, referrals to OPD clinics, referrals to primary health care centres, referrals to the emergency department, issuing health numbers for visitors, and reviewing lab test results and clinical imaging reports when no medical appointments are available soon in the clinic.
Dr al-Rumaihi explained that a number of physicians receive patient calls and conduct an initial assessment for the patients and answer their questions and when a specialised consultation is required, the call is put through to the specialist. In the event that a call is not answered, the doctors will call the patient back and then transfer the call to the specialist doctor if needed.
The Urgent Consultation Service also offers help and psychological support to those who suffer from stress and anxiety related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The service has also helped relieve the pressure on hospitals, which in turn resulted in reducing the risk of Covid-19 exposure for patients and healthcare professionals.
A survey conducted to seek patients’ opinion about the service showed that when asked about their decision if the Urgent Consultation Service was not available, 58% of the respondent said they would go to the emergency department, while 18% said they would go to private clinics, 16% said they would go to the OPD without an appointment, and 11% said they would stay home and would not seek medical attention.
The Urgent Consultation Service will remain in place with periodic reviews conducted regularly to remove or add more services and specialties as needed.