October 07, 2008

Balm for NRIs: Chennai couple launches doctor service for parents back home

* When Soumi Mandal left India for the United Kingdom five years ago, it was with a nagging feeling that she was neglecting her ageing parents — her father is a diabetic dangerously irregular about check-ups.
* In Boston, USA, Ramakrishna Ayyagiri was dealing with a similar dilemma when he left for higher studies: “My father has a blood sugar problem and my mother, too, is getting on in years and refuses to see a doctor.”
THIS is a common worry for Non Resident Indians (NRIs), and fuels guilt about them turning their backs on ageing parents at a critical period in their lives. So there was a sense of relief when Mandal and Ayyagiri heard about ‘Doorstep Doctors’, a Delhi-based medical organisation that visits parents of NRIs at home to check up on their health and keeps the children posted about every development.

Touted as India’s first home healthcare service for NRIs and formed around four months ago, Doorstep Doctors (www.doorstepdoc.com) is the outcome of a survey conducted by Dr Sanjeev Ganguly, former clinical research specialist with Ranbaxy, and wife Dr Mohua Ganguly, medical affairs manager with MSD India, among 200 NRIs between July and August 2007. “We found that healthcare needs of ageing parents is the greatest problem, second only to security concerns. It is a source of constant concern for NRIs because they live away from their parents,” Sanjeev says.

“As the name suggests, we take doctors to the doorstep of patients instead of calling them to clinics. This has also enabled us to connect both ends of the spectrum, parents living in India and children settled abroad, who can now assume responsibility for their parents’ medical needs.”

For Mandal and Ayyagiri, this was the next best thing to being at home themselves.

Besides Delhi, the service is currently available in seven cities, and its client list spans the US, UK and Malaysia.

The annual subscription entitles quarterly visits by doctors and is divided into two modules. The basic module is for parents who are aged but not very ill and costs around Rs 2,000 per month.

“We carry out very comprehensive checks like lipid profile, blood sugar tests, liver and kidney function tests, ECG and screening for prostrate cancer, arthritis and gout among others,” Sanjeev says. “It also includes two emergency calls with free ambulance facilities. There is also a doctor bank.”

For unforeseen illnesses, he says, one just needs to call Doorstep Doctors, “and a doctor will visit you”.

The advanced module, priced at Rs 2,800 per month, is for those with multiple disorders — doctors visit more often and parents can call for emergency care four times a year.

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