Hospitals in Sri Lanka peculiarly have fewer OPD Doctors who are on their full-time rolls and rather have Consultants who work via the preferred Channelling route. Channelling is essentially a mode for patients to book pre-paid appointment with doctors. The Consultants who work via the Channelling option have their Sessions planned well in advance for the next 3-4 months in coordination with the Finance Department and expectedly get paid a component of the Channelling Fees based on the number of patients they consult. The Doctors agree to see N number of patients per hour (for example 6 patients per hr) and do not support overbooking, such that one slot overlaps another appointment. The downside of the Channelling system is that although patients may have the freedom to pick the date for the appointment they cannot specify the time-slot that they want to see the doctor. In fact the premise of Channel based appointments is first-come first serve.
There are multiple ways in which Channelling Appointments may be registered with a Hospital
- The E-Channelling Website –This mode of visiting the website to book appointments, is preferred by the internet accessible population and now telecom companies like Dialog and Airtel have jumped the bandwagon of offering E-Channelling via the Mobile Apps.
- The Hospital Channelling Counter – Each hospital has a dedicated counter to offer assistance to patients to query/book Channelling based doctor appointments.
- The Franchise Model - This model is offered by those hospitals which are typically a distance away from the cities and towns and so they tie-up with localized pharmacies to channel appointments on behalf of the hospitals and give pre-printed stationary. The Franchisees though charge a premium to the hospitals as a commission.
- Channelling Phone Based Appointment Booking – The patients may call in to a centralized hospital phone number and book an appointment but they would still need to pay up front prior to the appointment date to confirm their channelled appointment. This mode though is restricted and mostly only a strategy for hospitals with lower patient flow.
- Patient Walk-ins – The Channelling counter does offer patient walk-ins only if there is slot availability for the doctor. But they too would only be offered the last available slot based on a first-come first-serve basis.
- Urgent Appointments – there are some cases where the doctor may extend his slot availability and take urgent appointments. Some providers may charge a premium against such consultations.
Some of the pros vs. the cons of the channelling System has been that it has definitely a> helped streamline the doctor appointments b> avoided overcrowding in the hospitals, c> improved attention span for the doctors to be able to concentrate for a dedicated slot with one patient. d> better patient experience, assured appointments. e> reduced no shows f> predictable OPD footfalls. In the cons section I would add that a> the waiting time to get to meet an acclaimed doctor could be rather long. b> lack of flexibility to meet a doctor based on the patient’s choice of time.