Cities like Malappuram, Kannur and Thrissur in Kerala share a common trait with Dhanbad in Jharkhand — they have a low density of doctors, reveals a study by IMS Health.

Compared to Gurgaon that has three doctors per 1,000 patients, some cities in Kerala have less than one doctor for 1,000 patients, said the study that covered 120 top cities in the country, mapping the details of their doctors and chemists.

Explaining the findings, against the backdrop of Kerala’s strong health indicators, Amit Backliwal, Managing Director of IMS Health (South Asia), said that low density did not necessarily translate into health indicators in the State.

Kerala’s literacy, awareness and hygiene levels, for instance, also contributed to its strong health indicators.

New methods

In fact, even within cities there is a skew, where the doctors or healthcare providers sit, and patients have to travel to them. What needs to be done is to device methods to take healthcare to patients through other methods, including tele-medicine etc, he said.

Kumar Hinduja, a Senior Director with IMS Health, further points out that low doctor density also presents an opportunity for setting up hospitals, for instance. Absence of doctors in the vicinity would result in people travelling out of the city for treatment.

The global parameter is 1.2 doctors for 1,000 people. And while the study found that 76 of these top cities were comparable, it meant 44 were below this parameter, and this further meant that other smaller cities could be in a similar situation, he observed.

Other interesting insights from the study were that North India was “over-served” by the healthcare system, compared to East and South India, that have a lower density of general practitioners (GPs- non-MBBS), compared to the Indian average, the study said.

Explaining non-MBBS, he said it included practitioners of other forms of medicine, who also prescribed allopathic drugs.

High doctor fees

Cities in North India account for 31 per cent of doctors in the country, but only 28 per cent of the country’s people reside there.

Delhi has the highest number of doctors, at about 40,500, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences being a huge magnet, they said. Kolkata and Mumbai were neck-to-neck at over 30,000 doctors, Hinduja said.

But Mumbaikars paid the highest doctor consultation fee, about 20 per cent higher than the rest of the country, the study found, for predictable reasons like the high realty cost, among other things.

Interestingly, less than three per cent of doctors surveyed where tech-savvy, or used technology to maintain medical records.

Chemists’ sales

In other findings, the study found that 42 per cent of chemists in India were in the top nine most populated cities and 29 per cent of chemists’ sales were done without prescription.

Over 35 per cent of chemists’ sales came from non-pharma products, such as over-the-counter products and medical devices like glucometers to check blood-sugar and blood pressure monitors, for instance.

IMS is an integrated healthcare technology services provider and the study covered 3.73 lakh doctors and 99,000 chemists across multiple parameters.

(This article was published on July 31, 2013)
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