The emergence of digital health services can significantly impact the country's growing economy with the adoption of proper planning and strategy.
Our economy is affected due to the pandemic, but the pandemic has opened a new avenue by creating a state-of-the-art digital platform. Telemedicine is one segment of that platform but other segments like creating skilled doctors, nurses, and technicians with modern equipment should be prepared.
Customer relationships must be augmented to build strong digital bonding between patients and doctors, impacting the whole health scenario. This initiative would involve introducing a CRM tool for more excellent patient history monitoring and scenario analysis to deliver a more incredible experience. This would also help the medical institution analyze patients' trend and requirements for service enhancement and greater business projection. The health industry would have to involve more professional marketers and accountants with digital knowledge and capacity to visualize the pathway of digital transformation for implementing such an ambitious shift.
If the health services can be digitized with a skilled workforce and modern equipment, the whole economy can be benefited a lot.
A large number of patients go to India, Singapore and Thailand for better treatment every year, and we can stop such outflow of patients and money if our health services can be ensured on a digital platform.
Patients should be trained to know and adopt the new digital service like the ongoing online education, which has leaped forward currently. For instance, professional bodies like ACCA offer online classes through their learning partners from the beginning of the pandemic, and for exams, they have introduced remote invigilation where through AI and human supervision, quality is being ensured.
Such digital systems were not known to the general students a few months back, but they have accepted and learned the system by now.
Similarly, many common patients will adopt the new system once the methodology is in practice.
Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), supported by WHO Bangladesh, initiated a national digital health strategy, an essential step towards harnessing digital solutions to improve the accessibility, quality, and affordability of health services.
A one-day stakeholder consultative workshop was organised on 22 December 2020 by Management Information System (MIS), under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), to finalise the Technical Working Group's draft strategy and refined it by the international experts from WHO.
The workshop was facilitated by MIS and was attended by senior officials from MoHFW, representatives from various Directorate General under MoHFW, Bureau of Statistics, academic institute, Directors and Line Directors of DGHS, Regional Advisor (HIS) - SEARO, representatives of UN-agencies, NGOs and private organizations.
The event aimed to finalise the strategy with the active engagement of key public and private stakeholders. Stakeholders were invited to share their observations and suggestions to enrich the draft strategy.
"The need for digital health has never been more visible and acute than since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when disrupted access to health service has forced health care providers and patients to employ alternative means to access and deliver health services.
Furthermore, the development of a digital health strategy will allow the country to advance in a more structured and planned way towards developing infrastructure, connectivity, quality, and validation of the digital applications in healthcare ecosystems. Bangladesh is already at a better stage to use digital technology across all sectors and provides scope for the general population to access the digital solutions to enable the advancement of socio-economic development", said Dr. Bhupinder Aulakh, WHO Deputy Country Representative to Bangladesh.
Attending the event, Secretary, Health Service Division (HSD), MoHFW, Md. Abdul Mannan highly appreciated the initiative and emphasized digital technology utilization in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Director-General, Directorate General of Health Services, Prof. Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam highlighted the importance of the strategy and expressed how it will offer a common platform and enable the country to address existing challenges in the area of digital health such as interoperability, cross border data security, proper use of information.
In August 2019, Bangladesh initiated a digital health strategy in pursuing resolution 71.7 of the World Health Assembly (WHA). WHO is fully committed to support the Government of Bangladesh towards strengthening the digital health systems and welcome all health and development partners to work jointly on this initiative, which will ultimately lead to better health for the people of Bangladesh.
The coronavirus pandemic has created a massive demand for telemedicine as most people are still reluctant to go to hospitals, fearing contracting Covid-19.
Many doctors are now providing consultations to their patients by video conferencing, a practice that became popular when the government imposed a countrywide lockdown to combat the pandemic in late March last year. Furthermore, several digital healthcare service platforms have been launched to facilitate telemedicine.
Currently, about 15 digital healthcare service providers are working in the country, according to Access to Information (a2i).
Praava Health, which also provides digital healthcare services, says they have been receiving a massive number of calls from patients during the pandemic and supporting patients through home sample collections for tests, along with health plans.
Sebaghar, a mobile telemedicine app, was officially launched in April. IT firm bdtask.com created the app by which patients can speak directly to doctors for advice and prescriptions.
bdtask.com Director and Chief Operating Officer Tanzil Ahmed said, "About 100,000 people have installed our Sebaghar app, and more than a thousand doctors have enlisted. About 75,000 people have received healthcare services over the Sebaghar app in the last six months.
"Most doctors and consultants do not have the option of treating their patients face to face, especially those who are treating asthma, fever, and ENT patients. They have turned to alternative ways to treat their patients," he added.
HelloDoc, a virtual hospital, was also launched in April to support the growing demand for telemedicine. Patients can consult with 42 senior consultants and doctors by video conferencing.
Daktarbhai, a telemedicine platform, offers online doctor's appointment services with facilities for electronic health records.
In June, the Bangladesh Society of Medicine (BSM) initiated a program to facilitate telemedicine services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The initiative is also backed by three other doctors' associations - Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (Swachip), and Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons (BCPS).
The project aimed to provide treatment for Covid-19 patients over the phone, and call centres would ensure that people can access medical advice from their homes during the pandemic.
"Patients can take digital prescriptions, which helps with the names of medicines," said Tanzil Ahmed.
"Digital healthcare services or telemedicine can remove hassles for patients as getting an appointment with a doctor is very difficult in our country," he added.
Besides, Grameenphone, Robi, bkash and Banglalink are offering such digital medical services for teeming millions.
The contributor is a business strategist currently working for ACCA Bangladesh as Senior Manager. [email protected]