Healthcare sector of a nation is instrumental to the quality of life there. Healthcare in Bangladesh is a sector that has always been riddled with infrastructural difficulties, given the nation's robust population. The industry has always struggled to provide quality service, often being too understaffed (with meagre, and insufficiently skilled workforce), under-funded and poorly equipped to handle rising demands of a rapidly growing population. For a long time now, the healthcare sector has been in dire need of reforms in terms of structure and process of service delivery. Old models became obsolete and desperate for digital transformation to foster efficiency, and consistent quality.
According to Lightcastle Partners Bangladesh Business Confidence Index, Healthcare is touted as one of the most promising sectors as the nation moves towards Digital Bangladesh 2020. Proliferation of Information Technology has enabled players within the industry, empowering healthcare professionals and recipients of the services across all walks of the community. Over the last decade, a number of companies have come forward to help close the gap, and help healthcare service providers overcome their inadequacies with technology. Those companies helped address major issues that created a quality discrepancy.
Healthcare tech startups can be majorly clustered into the following areas based on their services.
Telemedicine: Facilitating remote service delivery, and communication between patients and physicians (example, Jeeon)
Appointment Scheduling: Helping people schedule appointments with physicians. (example, Doctor Ola)
Preventative healthcare system: Educating, and helping users keep tabs on various parameters of health with the help of a mobile platform. (example, Rx71, CMED)
Emergency response: Ensuring delivery of emergency services with a pool of dedicated first responders and donors (e.g Criticalink)
Pharmacy Delivery: Allowing users to order required pharmaceutical products online and have them delivered to their doorstep. (e.g Bhalothakun, Pharma71)
Mental and female Health: Providing real time, on demand services such as consultation, advice from experts on socio, psychological, health and legal issues. (Example, Maya Apa)
Maternity Health: Providing consultation, support through helpful content to expecting mothers. (example, Aponjon by DNET)
Comprehensive Health Service: A bundle of service for a monthly subscription fee including health content, over the phone consultation, appointment booking, and insurance.(Example, Tonic, by Telenor Health)
Government extending their support to the ICT industry has a major role to play in the advent of these technology oriented services becoming available. Taking inspiration from more developed countries, entrepreneurs within the ICT sector recognised this need as an opportunity. “Health tech is just getting started in Bangladesh. At this point, I wouldn't even call it an industry” says Ahmed Abu Bakr, COO and Co founder of the telemedicine service facilitator, Jeeon. “It's really a number of small firms trying to use technology to create innovations in the healthcare industry. Some, like doctorola, have already started making considerable traction. I am sure that over the next five years we will see some remarkable success stories, and the forming of an actual industry- but I do think that it'll be atleast ten years before the industry stabilises. I believe that some of these innovations will succeed in creating wide spread changes in behaviour, to the point where five years from now, online doctor bookings, drug ordering and delivery, etc. will be the norm rather than the exception.”
“My fear is that we may continue to make progress in an unregulated environment.” He adds. “Lack of regulation is a huge boon for startups, allowing them to quickly experiment and innovate. But in a maturing industry, it a very risky proposition. It can easily lead to companies trampling the rights of citizens, both deliberately (selling patient data to insurance companies) and accidentally (poor patient data privacy). The authorities are going to have to be extra careful with this one, stepping in to create a regulatory environment so that it benefits rather than hinders the burgeoning of a new and promising industry.”
A revolution needs more than improvements and upgrades. It calls for all major players to rethink the philosophy behind the whole process. Ahmed Abu Bakr believes in Human Centered Design, in service delivery. “Human Centered Design is a approach to design that assigns the users of the design the highest priority.” he explains. “It came about because with the rise in technical prowess in the late twentieth century, problems were approached primarily with an engineering mindset- an optimisation problem to be solved. HCD prioritises empathy towards the user, and relies on an agile and iterative mode of working to try and make sure that products, services, and solutions work better for the people using them”
Healthcare tech spurt is creating an avenue for firms to incorporate cutting edge technology towards creating seamless service delivery for healthcare professionals, and to create numerous possibilities to redefine and redesign the sector for maximum efficiency, and help reach its full potential. There is room for tremendous growth through incorporation of concepts such as Big data, to help governing bodies make better, more effective, data driven decisions for their respective communities.
The writer is a Contributor of Bytes, the tech publication of The Daily Star.