Every few months, Aftab Hossain, who resides in Helsinki, stayed up until 4:00am Finnish local time to make a phone call to Dhaka to confirm doctor's appointments for his elderly parents.
His parents, who live near the Aricha Ghat in Manikganj, though found the 170-kilometre journey to and from the doctor's chamber gruelling, so much that they missed one appointment.
This prompted Hossain to brainstorm a solution and Olwel was born.
The startup, essentially, connects patients to doctors nearby by way of its website, hotline, and app.
It provides essential doorstep healthcare service for patients who prefer to receive medical consultation at their home for a service charge of Tk 600.
The doctor gives about 30 minutes to each patient, runs some general tests and if needed refers him/her to specialists for the ailment.
The patients also get follow-up calls from their doctors to ensure whether the prescribed treatment is working or not.
Since November last year, the service has been available in the capital's Shyamoli, Mohammadpur, Lalmatia, Dhanmondi, and Kalabagan areas.
The Finland-based startup plans to cover the entire city within the next few months.
It intends to set up about 10 centres across the city such that doctors can reach patients' home within 30 minutes of the call.
At present, Olwel is taking calls (09666766000) from 8:00am to 10:00pm, but it plans to make the service available round the clock, said Hossain, who is the chief executive officer and one of the co-founders of the startup. The app is not live yet.
“The way we are using ICT to decentralise primary healthcare is unique -- we are the first to provide this model in Bangladesh.”
The Finnish healthcare system for the elderly served as an archetype for Olwel, he added.
According to a British medical journal, Bangladeshi doctors are giving on average only 48 seconds to a patient as there is a huge queue for specialists and experienced doctors, said MWA Farhad, another co-founder of Olwel BD Limited.
“Patients need not wait for hours at the doctor's chamber if they use Olwel. Senior citizens will benefit the most although Olwel is for everyone.” The service will be ideal for those with movement difficulties and for anyone who wants to avoid traffic jam and long queues at a doctor's office.
Olwel's doctors were cherry-picked through a rigorous selection process: they have obtained their MBBS degrees from a reputed medical college and have a verified BMDC registration.
“None of our doctors have less than two years of proper experience,” said Farhad.
Then they receive special training by Olwel's local expert doctors' panel, expatriate doctors' panel and a formal behavioural training.
The startup has already invested nearly Tk 1 crore and needs to invest more as it is getting a huge response.
“Most of the calls are coming from outside of Dhaka,” Farhad said, adding that Olwel's doctors have attended hundreds of patients in their service areas.
Ashrarul Kadir, a resident of Lalmatia area, has used Olwel several times for his aged parents and is extremely happy with the service.
“My mother is 84 and my father is 92 -- they are not at all capable of visiting doctors. These young people have spared me from that hassle.”
Kadir learned of Olwel from a leaflet and was intrigued by it. One day his parents were feeling unwell and he thought of trying Olwel. He called the hotline and within a few minutes, a doctor arrived at his flat.
“My parents are very happy with the doctors too. They also made follow-up calls, which surprised me,” he added.
Hossain is also pleased with the way his brainchild is faring and has grand designs for it: he wants to take the service to a few other Asian, African and Nordic countries within the next two years.