BENGALURU: Cautioning its doctor-members against tying up with online medical aggregator platforms, like Pristyn, Medfin, Practo and others, the Bangalore Ophthalmic Society (BOS) on Wednesday told them that these platforms are nothing but online touts.
The Society stated that it has written a letter to its members as it has noticed some doctors being approached, while others having already tied up with these online aggregators to gain patients. The Society said, “These platforms offer patients and charge a commission for the same. We wish to remind our members that not only is this unethical, it is also a violation of The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations Act, 2002.”
Explaining their grouse with these platforms, Dr YL Rajashekar, past president of BOS, said, “These aggregators act like middlemen taking commissions from doctors, similar to how Ola and Uber charge their drivers. This amounts to bribery. There are clear cut rules in the state and country, which say there can’t be middlemen, between doctors and patients, taking profits. Here, the patient’s interest is not kept in mind.”
He said that initially, the service may appear to help patients, but later aggregators start guiding patients to hospitals where they can make bigger profits. Also, the commission that has to be paid to these aggregators squeezes hospitals and that affects the quality of treatment, he added.
“On online platforms, treatments are played out as one-time events. But in reality, surgeries and medical treatments involve preoperative and postoperative care. Good continuous care is essential. Patients have to exercise caution,” he said.
The letter, signed by Society president Dr GV Divakar and secretary Dr Elankumaran P quoted a Section of the Act, which states that a physician shall not give, solicit or receive any gift, gratuity, commission or bonus. They also referred to another Section, which states that a physician shall not use touts or agents for procuring patients.
Letter warns of price wars, unhealthy competition
The letter stated that these agents only lead to price wars and unhealthy competition among the fraternity, resulting in decline in quality and loss of camaraderie. They referred to a situation created by one of the platforms, which initially offered free appointment services and later dictated terms, diverting patients to those paying higher premiums.
The Society said doctors must resolve to uphold ethics and prevent non-medical agents from indulging in tactics that tarnish their image and solidarity. “We would like to request members to desist from encouraging and associating with the above online platforms. Those that have associated are requested to rescind the association. In the event that any member is found doing the same, they may be referred to the Medical Council for necessary action,” the letter stated.