New Delhi: It’s 2’O clock in the morning. 34-year-old Dr Swaminathan Chandramouli is ready to leave his house and travel across Madurai, treating patients. Dr Chandramouli sits in the passenger seat of a Maruti Eeco ambulance, which he refers to as a “mini ICU” and starts the day by visiting one patient at a time. 34-year-old Dr Chandramouli runs “Doctor on Wheels”, a mobile-healthcare initiative to provide at-home medical services to senior citizens. Started on September 16, 2019, Dr Chandramouli and his team have treated over 25,000 patients so far. On any given day, they cater to around 40 elderly patients in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
Born in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli, Dr Chandramouli was raised by his mother, a single parent, in Canada. After completing his schooling in 2006, he returned to India to pursue medicine and stayed back to work as an emergency physician and diabetologist. However, while working, he felt that healthcare had been commercialised and lacked quality.
Dr Chandramouli recalled,
I worked with corporates for eight years but didn’t feel the connection. Soon I realised that it was not my cup of tea. The field of medicine has become a business. I saw people weren’t getting benefitted, especially senior citizens who didn’t have enough means to seek healthcare and visit the hospital often on their own.
And that’s when Dr Chandramouli decided to move out of his well-paying corporate job and work towards making healthcare easy and accessible for senior citizens.
I thought, if food can be delivered at home, why can’t quality healthcare? he said.
In the first two weeks, Dr Chandramouli got only eight patients, making him question his decision. He wondered whether he would be able to reach people in need with his initiative. Through word of mouth, Doctor on Wheels was marketed and soon came COVID, which proved to be a game changer for the initiative.
We were able to treat 700 COVID-19 patients at home, with a recovery rate of 99 per cent.
Taking us through the workflow, Dr Chandramouli said,
Earlier I used to take only emergency cases but it is arduous for me to bounce from one end of Madurai to another. Now I attend to patients on an appointment basis. Depending on the calls we get through the day, by 10pm, we make a route map for the next day. This is to avoid visiting the same locality twice in a day.
Dr Chandramouli believes that senior citizens are big babies, requiring more affection and care as patients. They want someone to sit and listen to their health concerns. Doctors need to be good listeners, but time takes a toll in the business of health. Dr Chandramouli spends 20-25 minutes with each patient, understanding their problems and advising a treatment. The medicines are delivered in two to three hours after consultancy. If any diagnostic test is required, the team offers an at-home testing service. He added,
Whatever we do is not a substitute for a hospital. Acute critical care is and can be managed at a hospital. We can replicate the treatment for people who cannot afford it. We offer everything a two-tier hospital can.
For instance, in November 2023, when Mr Alagarsamy Keelavasal’s nonagenarian mother, a patient of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) developed community acquired pneumonia, he dialed up Dr Chandramouli. The old woman was treated with Intravenous antibiotics and a non-invasive ventilation (NIV) machine at home and she subsequently recovered. Mr Keelavasal recalls,
The following month my mother developed a urinary tract infection (UTI), I again called Dr Chandramouli. Upon thorough examination and necessary tests, he prescribed some medicines and my mother recovered in three to four days. The doctor is very kind, he visits in the midnight as well.
In case a second opinion is required, Dr Chandramouli consults his fellow doctors over call. If a patient requires hospital admission, he provides ambulance service for free.
For his service, Dr Chandramouli charges Rs. 300 to Rs. 800, depending on the financial security of a patient and the distance travelled. He adds,
If I do it for free, the value of the service will not be appreciated. 30 per cent of the cases are treated for free. We get patients from all socio-economic statuses.
The health warrior works for over 12 hours a day, compromising on his personal and family time. He credits his work and success to his wife and son who don’t get to see him often but continue to support him. He said,
Seeing the smiles on the faces of elderly people warms my heart. Being able to make a positive difference in the lives of people and help them brings me joy.
People living in Madurai can reach out to Dr Chandramouli on the mobile number +91 9942362310 and seek an appointment. Patients can also dial the helpline number +91 7094312185.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.