The medical emergency number 104 in India has been nothing short of a miracle and a boon to its citizens. Over the last decade, India’s healthcare has undergone a tremendous transformative journey. The health sector has been able to reach the last mile and be able to provide primary healthcare services, and the government policies, introduction of new health schemes, increased public private partnership, etc, has played a cascading role in it. With everything evolving in the health sector, introduction of the 104 medical helpline number has been the most important and took the evolution in India’s health sector to the next level.
Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd, one of India’s leading emergency services and assistance providers, calls the introduction of medical helpline number 104 revolutionary; although the concept isn’t novel and many countries already offer it. It is revolutionary because it enables people to avoid medical emergencies, by being able to seek free medical consultation from a qualified doctor over a call. Ziqitza calls the introduction of the 104 medical helpline number a huge step towards preventive healthcare, as it makes primary healthcare and assistance accessible to the people with zero cost involved.
It was the Government of Karnataka that first initiated the 104 medical helpline services (Arogyavani) to its people. Arogyavani provides medical consultation and health counselling services, and also acts as a grievance redressal system. Inspired by the success of Arogyavani in Karnataka, the Government of Punjab in the year 2014 partnered with Ziqitza Healthcare launched a 104 medical helpline call centre and offered its services in three languages – Punjabi, English and Hindi. As part of public private partnership, Ziqitza Rajasthan in partnership with National Health Mission soon launched the 104 medical helpline numbers in the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. The other states where 104 non-emergency medical helpline numbers are active are Assam, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
Ziqitza Limited elaborates that the primary function of the 104 medical helpline is to provide health related services to the general public. These helplines assist the public in seeking the best care and solution available. Some of their role is listed below for easy reference:
- They act as an information directory and assist the public in seeking information about health service providers, diagnostic centers and services, clinics and hospitals etc.
- They register complaints against persons or institutions which are guilty of negligence, deficiency in services, corruption etc.
- They act as an efficient response channel for health scares and localised epidemics.
- They offer counselling and advice for depression, anxiety, HIV, AIDS, RTI, STI, etc.
- They Provide information about various government schemes, institutions and information on blood banks
- They handle grievances related to patient healthcare, equipment at hospitals or health centers, doctors’ availability and capabilities, etc.
- They offer medical counselling on family planning, on diseases considered taboo, drug rehabilitation services etc.
- They provide suggestive medication via SMS, first aid advice and health alerts.
The 104 health helpline number has been able to bridge the gap between the patients and health professionals. The 104 helpline numbers largely operated by ZHL Rajasthan in various states, is responsible for offering assistance for minor physiological illnesses, distresses and ailments. However, these helpline numbers acquired a much more important role during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number 104 was declared the national COVID-19 helpline number, and since then the Ziqitza Limited Rajasthan operated helpline numbers in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha has successfully handled and received an unprecedented number of COVID-19 related queries. Ziqitza Health care operated centres witnessed a huge increase in inflow of calls, from receiving an average 2000 calls per day to receiving over10,000 calls per day. And these calls were a mix of both general ailment related queries and COVID-19 related queries.
While the medical helpline service is available across many states, there are still many who do not know about this number and are not aware about it. It becomes the moral obligation of those who know about it, to make others also aware about the helpline number. The scope of the 104 medical helpline number is vast and dynamic. The helpline numbers have played an essential role in recent times, especially now that we’re rebuilding our nation after the COVID-19 pandemic. The helpline played a major role in providing information to people during the lockdowns. These medical helpline numbers prove that geographies are no more boundaries, and cannot act as hindrance for someone seeking healthcare.