Doha, Qatar, 30 December 2020: Almost 1.7 million calls have been placed through the COVID-19 toll free hotline number 16000 since its launch in March 2020 by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH).
The 16000 hotline was set up to answer questions and enquiries related to COVID-19 as well as offering access to a range of key healthcare services at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation to members of the public and health professionals.
The 16000 hotline operates around-the-clock throughout the week and has received over 552,000 calls requesting vital information and services related to COVID-19. By contacting the hotline, members of the public affected by the virus are able to receive urgent and prompt care and, during the peak time, cases were easily triaged for home quarantine or evacuation to isolation facilities. Additionally, the hotline has assisted in tracking and tracing efforts to identify potential new cases, thus slowing down the rate of infection amongst Qatar’s population.
Callers to the hotline can speak with the agents in either Arabic or English. Information relayed about COVID-19 includes how Qatar is affected; signs and symptoms of coronavirus; what to do if they suspect they may be at risk; quarantine and isolation rules and general advice on travelling to affected countries.
A key service available via the 16000 hotline is urgent care consultations at HMC. This service is available Saturday to Thursday from 7am until 3pm and has had over 220,000 calls. Once patients have dialed the 16000 hotline and selected the HMC option, they are able to communicate with their physicians via telemedicine with options available for video or audio consultations. The physician can order any laboratory investigation that the patient might require as well as prescribe their medications for pick up at any public hospital’s pharmacy or home delivery.
For patients requiring pharmacy services, the medication delivery option on the 16000 hotline is available from 7am to 3pm, Saturday to Thursday. This offers patients the option to either get their medications delivered to their home using QPost or pick up themselves at any health center pharmacy close to their home. Up until 3 December, a total of 252,433 patients had received their medications through the medication home delivery service whilst more than 860,064 medication items were dispensed to those patients.
Patients have also been able to access the Mental Health Helpline as an option through the 16000 hotline, which is available from 9am until 5pm from Saturday to Thursday. The line has managed more than 15,000 calls from people needing support. Through the Mental Health Helpline, people experiencing stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are offered support. The helpline is staffed by a team of mental health professionals who provide assessment and support to callers through four main categories: children and parents, adults, older people and frontline healthcare workers. The helpline staff speak a range of languages to enable callers to communicate in their language of choice, where possible.
“By dedicating a hotline to COVID-19 and other urgent care services, Qatar’s healthcare partners have been able to provide prompt care to those affected by the virus and able to curb its spread by establishing clear contact tracing pathways through each caller to the hotline. Our team of dedicated staff at the Center for Patient Experience and Staff Engagement (CPESE), in coordination with other public healthcare partners, developed a “knowledge base” to aid call center agents to effectively attend to all public enquiries,” says Mr. Nasser Al Naimi, Deputy Chief of Quality Center for Patient Experience and Staff Engagement and Director of Hamad Healthcare Quality Institute.
“We are very proud that our staff have been able to support the national initiative to curb the spread of coronavirus in Qatar by dedicating themselves and being available round-the-clock to answer questions and enquiries from every caller at a time when everything seems uncertain. Many people are expressing satisfaction with our service and are saying they would recommend the hotline,” he adds.