DocOnline: Clinic on Wheels - Empowering Women and Transforming Healthcare
The need for quality healthcare in Rural India:
Access to quality healthcare is a distant dream for most women in Rural India. Studies reveal that gender stereotypes, lack of facilities, and lack of access play a major role in impacting the health of Indian women. As per research conducted by Indian experts and Harvard University, gender stereotypes prevent women from voicing their health problems, and gender bias increase with distance from the national capital. The study revealed that far-flung areas of Uttar Pradesh witness a lower number of women patient turnout than Delhi, where medical care is comparatively accessible.
According to the National Family Health Survey-5, 70% of women are denied healthcare due to a lack of female providers and the embarrassment of elaborating their medical conditions to a male doctor. Additionally, 44% of women cannot access medical facilities due to medical costs and distance.
Zainab, 28, is a homemaker who lives in a UP village. She suffered from irregular heavy menstrual bleeding since she gave birth to her second child a year ago. She took treatment advice from a local doctor but that did not help her. She vividly remembers how embarrassed she was to detail her ordeal to a male doctor, but she had little choice. When the medications failed to work, she refused to consult another doctor – after all, it would have meant going through the same embarrassment again.
She isn’t the only one. Living next door, Sheeba, a mother of three, massages the bony legs of her youngest infant daughter, Rinki. With no specialists in their village and hardly any funds to visit the city to see a doctor, there is little that Rinki’s family can do for her stunted growth due to malnutrition. With India facing a critical gap in primary health care infrastructure, many such women and children in the rural parts of India do not receive access to proper medical care.
With nearly 75% of dispensaries, 60% of hospitals, and 80% of doctors located in urban areas, serving only 28% of the Indian populace, quality healthcare is not within reach for people living in Rural India.
Affordability, quality, and gender stereotypes are the major concerns that the rural population faces when it comes to seeking healthcare. Reports reveal that there is one doctor for every 1,445 Indians, contrary to the 1:1000 doctor-to-patient norm of the World Health Organisation.
The Clinic on Wheels Initiative:
In association with the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), Vedanta and Anil Agarwal Foundation partnered with DocOnline in 2021 to enable healthcare services in Rural India as its CSR initiative.
As a sustainable CSR solution, the two-wheeler clinic model: Clinic on Wheels, is managed by a paramedic staff hand-picked after a rigorous selection process and trained for quality healthcare delivery. Every day, the paramedic staff on a two-wheeler visits NandGhars (Anganwadis) in far-flung rural villages to deliver healthcare services, including doctor and specialist consultations, medicines, and diagnostic tests. Designed to empower the healthcare needs of women, the DocOnline team comprises 100% women employees, including the doctors and paramedic staff.
Clinic on Wheels delivers video consultations from MCI-certified and experienced doctors from metropolitan cities to Rural India. Considering that 2 out of 3 doctors in Rural India have no formal medical degree or training, the model helps reduce fatal medical errors. The availability of General Physicians, Gynaecologists, and Paediatricians helps women actively seek healthcare support which was a challenge due to embarrassment, poor transport connectivity, and an overall lack of awareness.
Since its inception in March 2021, the project has scaled up to 600 villages from 100 villages in Phase 1. The Clinic on Wheels model is helping around 25 lakh villagers, delivering over 1.5 lakh consultations, medicines, and diagnostic tests in just 11 months. Over 56% of the visitors here are female patients who were denied healthcare due to the non-availability of female healthcare workers earlier.
The project has impacted the lives of several women, and thereby several families, by eliminating gender stereotypes that prevented them from seeking proactive healthcare support. It also reduces their need for hospital visits by over 90%, thereby decreasing their out-of-pocket expenditure. Additionally, the project leads to an early diagnosis of symptoms and provides timely treatment – thereby reducing the disease burden. Apart from the above, the award-winning project has created employment opportunities for women in Rural India.