Absenteeism is a very big curse in the delivery of public health services in India. Since all attendances of medical staff is verified at the PHC itself and generally by the absentee doctor himself, there has never been an official check on this culture of ‘furlough’. A trial of giving supervisory powers to local ‘Sarpanch’ (village headman) to ensure attendances of medical staff didn’t work out as well as hoped for.
Now Technology and crowd sourcing promises to do what no government administration has managed to do yet. Such technology ensures the presence of medical staff on duty.
The Indo-Deutch Project Management Society (IDPMS) tracks SMS messages reporting staff absences sent by local patients, and maps the regions and facilities where absenteeism is prent. These maps are then made available to locals and policymakers.
Presently this experiment is limited to Karnataka. But as and when results emerge, this simple system to involve the citizens to ensure the attendances of medical staff at rural PHCs is bound to have a number of effects on the Indian public healthcare setup. No doubt, the idea will be vilified and rubbished by the entrenched bureaucracy and status of medical staff of government services. But this SMS enabled collaborative supervision of public health services can be a very good tool for improving healthcare delivery by making people more involved in ensuring they get the healthcare services they deserve and pay taxes for.