Hospitals are setting up standalone clinics where patients can consult with specialists, get basic treatments and procedures, pre- and post-operative care, chemotherapy and radiation, or just routine tests and check-ups.
While the move helps free up space in hospitals, patients benefit by being treated closer to home, in more pleasant surroundings, with a lowered risk of hospital-acquired infection.
In Delhi, Max and GE Healthcare teamed up in 2016, to open a cancer care centre; the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute also has a standalone centre in south Delhi, opened just over a year ago.
Similar facilities in Mumbai are easing nightmarish commutes for patients of the Asian Cancer Institute (ACI), Apollo Hospitals and Hiranandani. Apollo Hospitals alone has three offsite centres across Mumbai, and 85 such clinics in a total of 35 cities across India.
Such centres are particularly helpful to cancer patients because they have compromised immunity and risk infection with extended commutes and time spent in crowded hospitals, says Dr PK Julka, head of medical oncology at Delhi’s Max Institute of Cancer Care.
To help bust stress for patients and their care-givers, this centre also offers art therapy, a fitness centre, music and book-reading sessions. “It’s mostly our former patients who volunteer to conduct sessions for current patients. It is quite helpful,” Dr Julka says.
Cancer patients certainly seemed to be utilising the offsite centres the most. Already, the Max facility is conducting 15 chemotherapy sessions a day. At Mumbai’s offsite ACI centre too, an average of 10 chemo sessions are administered a day.
CLOSE TO HOME
A big advantage is the reduced wait time, says Hitamay Mutha, 25, whose father Dhirendra was diagnosed with mouth cancer in August. “At the ACI hospital, we would have to wait for about half an hour for our turn. At the clinic, there is no wait,” Hitamay says.
The ACI clinic is in the suburb of Borivli, over an hour away from the main facility.
“About a year ago, we realised that there were a lot of people from the suburbs for whom just the commute to and from their regular chemotherapy sessions was taking up to four hours,” says Dr Ramakant Deshpande, chairman of the Mumbai-based Asian Cancer Institute hospital. “So we opened the clinic, to offer chemotherapy, help with routine checks and consultations, diagnosis and biopsies.”
For Dhirendra, 58, and his son, the clinic has provided much relief. Initial chemotherapy and surgery were performed at the main hospital, but the weekly chemotherapy sessions since February are administered at the Borivali clinic, which is right near the Muthas’ home.
“Because it’s ACI’s own clinic, I am not worried about the quality of care. Also, in case of an urgent query or checkup, we know that help is close by,” Hitamay says.
The ACI hospital still gets about 100 patients a day, so the clinic has helped redistribute the load too.
In an increasingly mobile India, where urban cities are full of young professionals with little family support and no go-to general practitioner, hospital-run clinics can play a vital role, says
Dr Hari Prasad Kovelamudi, president of the Apollo hospitals division. “People are reluctant to walk into hospitals for non-threatening conditions. The clinics we set up can cater to those needs.”
A specialist close at hand means chances of early diagnosis for symptomatic conditions such as cancers and cardiac issues. “If the specialty hospital is far away, the tendency is to delay a check-up,” says Dr Deshpande.
Within a city, Apollo decides on the number of clinics based on population density, emerging suburban pockets, real-estate availability and cost, and the presence of existing service providers.
“At an off-site clinic, the doctor also has a little more time to chat with the patients, which helps understand the case better, build the doctor-patient equation,” adds Dr Sujit Chatterjee, CEO of Mumbai’s LH Hiranandani Hospital, which has clinics in the eastern suburb of Ghatkopar and the western suburb of Andheri.
What Deepti Gupta, 58, appreciates most about her experience with the Max clinic in Delhi, where she is getting chemotherapy treatments, is the “relaxed, pleasant and less crowded” environment.
“I have had chemo elsewhere and the experience here is mentally less taxing,” she says. “Because it’s not as crowded as a hospital, staff are able to pay attention to your smallest needs.”