One interesting thing about Bangalore that I’ve seen time and again is that when someone in the family needs to visit the doctor that it’s the husband’s or son’s duty to accompany them to and throughout the visit – regardless of whether they work or not. As head of household, this is a responsibility that has historically fallen on the man and even today this tradition remains.
But there is no man in our life in India so I am happily sat writing the start to this blog post in the waiting room at Vikram Hospital on Millers Road in Bangalore, waiting for my daughter to emerge from an exam room. The waiting room has floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the tree tops and the street below, the waiting room we are in is super a/c cooled and smells wonderful, the sofas and chairs are new and very comfortable, everything is sooo clean…and I couldn’t be happier with our choice of medical facility. Well, really it was my driver Shiva who suggested it after I mentioned that my friends had recommended Malya Hospital, which Shiva says is for the high society of Bangalore and would have cost us a tremendous amount more than Vikram.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is the first time I’ve visited a medical facility since moving to India in April, 2011. And so far, like most everything, the difference between here and Spain in many ways seems like night and day. I won’t detail the reasons for our visit but it was not an emergency so we came into the general consultation floor, not the urgent care. When we first entered, instead of the very white walls and sterile feel that most medical centres in Spain have, Vikram’s consultation area feels very warm. The walls are papered, panelled in cloth or painted in tones of beige or eggshell. The sofas have the same tone but are then accented by burgundy pillows, which are the same colour as the carpets. There is also a chai guy setup in the corner of the larger waiting rooms, which feels very Indian to me.
As usual, there wasn’t a detailed sign or list to tell us where to go or how to proceed so we started saying our spiel at the entrance and was directed to the first floor. At the first floor, again there was no detailed list of departments or map so we explained what we needed again to the first desk we saw. The nice guy behind the desk redirected us down the hall. We again gave our spiel to the first reception desk down that hall. She pointed us further down the hall. That still wasn’t the right desk but this time she called her colleague across the room and sent us off to her – desk #5 – where we finally landed at the right spot and the sweet girl behind the desk said she’d place us in queue to see the doctor. She then escorted us back to desk #3 where we completed our registration and was asked to sit down, assured that someone would call us soon.
I actually didn’t walk into the events of today with a plan to write a blog post but I quickly realised that is exactly what was going to happen. The epiphany hit when I caught a glimpse of all the female non-physician hospital staff. This is India so of course they are going to dress different. No boring scrubs for these ladies. No boxy shirt and straight-legged cotton trousers worn all around the world in unisex fashion by hospital staff. Nope, their uniform instantly makes the Indian hospital vibe different for us foreigners because they are all wearing matching sarees. I think they look so lovely and elegant, although it still shocks me a bit to see a woman’s belly in a situation like this but that’s how India rolls.
Literally not more than 8 or 10 minutes had passed since we first entered the building and we were already registered in the computer system and in queue for a specialist physician (not a GP). My daughter and I grabbed the day’s Times of India newspaper from a rack and were prepared to settle in for the long haul. Based on our experience in Spain, a visit to see the doctor is never a quick process, always accompanied by a massive amount of waiting.
By the way, I thought having the current newspaper available was a wonderful touch. They have racks on both sides of the waiting room with ample copies of today’s Times of India and other newspapers instead of a scrappy stack of women’s and celebrity-focused magazines like we are accustomed to.
Well, it turned out that we didn’t have long to wait. In fact, I didn’t even finish reading the first page of Times of India when a sweet lady in her hospital uniform saree came to escort us in to see the doctor. I think only 2 minutes transpired from the time we sat down! The specialist’s office was very nice, spotlessly clean and appeared to be paper-free so Vikram is obviously a very efficient medical centre that works off electronic data. I’m not an idiot and not trying to insinuate disrespect because I do realise that this is commonplace across the globe but after seeing the state of the banks in India, and their massive amount of paper stacks in every branch office I’ve ever stepped foot in, I had my doubts. The doctor obviously spoke perfect English (as did all of the staff in Vikram who we encountered). He examined my daughter, was very reassuring with a gentle manner, ordered two tests to be run on her and off we went again.
Once outside, my daughter was taken for her tests – which in Spain, because this wasn’t an emergency, would have required us to make an appointment for a future date and then go to the next village over because the medical offices in our town don’t have one of the machines that she needed. Yet at Vikram everything is done efficiently and quickly and ohhhhh so conveniently. At the same time as my daughter headed off, I was taken over to counter #3 to pay for our visit, which, in my opinion, was tremendously reasonable. The consult with the specialist cost just under 600 Rupees (€9) and the two tests ran Rs. 2,100 (€32). After about 15 minutes my daughter emerged from both tests and we were asked to sit for 20 minutes while we waited for the specialist to once again be available to review the results and share his findings with us.
The chai was smelling pretty good at this point and I loved that it’s served in proper ceramic tea cups with saucers. So I grabbed my wallet and went over for 2 teas. Once there, however, I was happy to learn that the chai is complimentary – so SCORE! And for whatever reason, either because we are white or because they needed to restock something, I’m not sure, they sent me back and said that they would serve us at the sofa where we were seated. This felt a bit uncomfortable because I hadn’t seen the chai guys deliver tea to anyone else and we were the only non-Indians I saw in the entire hospital. I would have preferred to have taken the teas myself but okay.
When the doctor saw us again I’m thrilled to report that all was normal and perfect. He ordered a round of blood tests just to cover all our bases so off we went again for that, which cost Rs. 2,400 (€32). That’s roughly the cost of blood tests in Spain so I’m surprised that the other two tests, which would have costs hundreds of Euros in Spain given the sophistication of the machines involved, cost less than these routine blood tests. It’s interesting. Before we left his office the doctor looked at my daughter and told her not to worry…that everything was fine, which I appreciated very much. The results from the blood tests take only a few hours to come back and the doctor said he will call us if he sees anything so we are in wait this afternoon together at home just in case we need to return.
Ohhh, one last funky thing that was very different from anywhere else I’ve been. When we were leaving I asked for the invoices from the day and they looked at me a bit strange at first. The girl attending to us had my daughter’s physical file in her hand, which included the test results, the notes that the doctor wrote, a copy of the invoices, etc. Well, it turns out that this paper file, so nicely organized, hole-punched, labelled and official looking was for us. We are expected to take it with us and then return with it whenever we visit the doctor so I’m assuming that they’ll keep adding to it. Not a bad way to keep paper out of the hospital, reduce medical records staffing needs and eliminate killing too many trees because only one physical copy of everything is produced, the rest is kept as data on their hard drives.
Well I have to say that this has to be the single most efficient and pleasant medical visit I’ve experienced in either Europe or the U.S. in a very long time. I honestly wasn’t expecting it. Vikram is so modern, well-staffed, wonderfully decorated and clean…all of which helps add to the experience. And I know this sounds lame but there was even toilet roll in the restrooms and that is rare outside the nicer hospitality venues in town. The staff is wonderful and I obviously can’t complain about the fantastic treatment that my daughter received today. Vikram Hospital earns two thumbs up from us.