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Hello Doctor!

Abu’l Fath Jalal-uddin-Muhammad Akbar, popularly known as Akbar-e-Azam (1556 – 1605) once asked his courtiers that, what is the most dominant profession been adopted by the public in Delhi – the Mughal Capital.

Somebody said army, some said agriculture, some ministers were insisting on traders and few pointed out cloth sellers and tailors. But the answer from one of the Akbar’s Navaratnas Raja Birbal shocked everyone when he said that Delhi is rife with Tabibs (Hakeem) and this is the most frequent and dominant profession in the city.

He invited the King to the market next day if he wants to see it for himself. Next morning King Akbar disguised as a common man, went to the market where Birbal was waiting for him. Akbar saw a bandage on one hand of Birbal. Upon enquiring it was revealed that while working in the kitchen last evening, he got a small cut on his finger.

Akbar gave him few tips for the treatment. As they were walking in the Bazar (market) lot of people met him and everyone gave him different medical advises to handle the wound.

Birbal said to the king, did you see, here everybody including you is a Tabib (Hakeem).

Coming to the present, if you want to try just put one hand somewhere on your body with a grimace of pain and then see how overwhelmed you will be with the free prescriptions and advises.

But the fact of the matter is that in the event of any disease, the most difficult task for the patient and his/her family is to find the right doctor.

However, in the modern times, technology has come into play and there has been an innovation in accessing medical care — which is now available ON LINE.

Telemedicine. This technology facilitates the patient to consult the doctor, and easily get the appointment for treatment through his cell phone, video call or computer. The fee is paid through credit/debit card or facilities like easy paisa. Telemedicine is coming to Pakistan in a very organized way.

Telemedicine started in the 1950’s in USA when few hospitals and university medical centers started to try to find ways to share information and images via telephone. In one of the first successes, two health centers in Pennsylvania were able to transmit radiologic images over the phone.

In the early days, telemedicine was used mostly to connect doctors working with a patient in one location to specialists somewhere else. This was of great benefit to rural or hard to reach populations where specialists were not readily available. In the beginning the use was limited.

The internet age brought with it profound changes for the practice of telemedicine. The proliferation of smart devices, capable of high-quality video transmission, opened up the possibility of delivering remote healthcare to patients in their homes, workplaces or assisted living facilities as an alternative to in-person visits for both primary and specialty care.

Few days ago, a conference was held in Shanghai – China, where 305 applications from different online companies of Asia for food, health, agriculture and other fields were received. Ten companies were short listed to participate in the conference, out of which only one company was selected from Pakistan “Marham”

This company “Marham” is providing telemedicine facilities for the last two years in Pakistan. Marham won the Demo-Day Asia award of Google “Audience Choice Award, whereas “Judges Award” went to an Indian telemedicine company.

What is Marham? This online health provider company is operating in Pakistan for the last two years, as informed by its CEO, Muhammad Noman Imam. About twelve thousand consultants from all specialties are registered with the company.

Patient can approach any specialist on company’s Website, Facebook page or smart phone app. Two type of services are provided by them, one any doctor or specialist can be consulted online and secondly, they facilitate to get appointment. Marham is operating in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Larkana, Bahawalpur, D.I.Khan, Wah Cantt and other cities and towns.

The CEO claims that so far more than five million patients have benefitted from their services and 250,000 are approaching specialists every month for consultation and appointment. Same numbers of patients are approaching them on Facebook.

They do not charge any fee from the patients. They however, charge service fee from the doctors.

Another NGO by the name of “Aman Telehealth” is also operating in the same field. Services are available 24/7. As per company’s marketing manager Aman, their directory has enlisted 23000 doctors and 5500 health centers. This platform has already served 920,000 patients with different ailments. Again, no charges from the patients and service charges from the doctors only.

Many other organizations are coming in this field. One of them which went viral on social and foreign media is “Sehat Kahani Clinic” located in a small village of KPK and serving patients online. PTI government, during its last tenure at KPK inaugurated a similar facility “E – Ilaj” (treatment) at District Mansehra. This clinic is connected to internet to give patients access to the doctors located in Peshawar. These doctors diagnose the disease and advise the health staff available in the center regarding medication to the patient.

These details reveal that this genre of consultation and treatment is gaining popularity swiftly in Pakistan.

As this new idea is taking roots in Pakistan, there are many questions also being raised about this mode of health facility which need to be answered to the patient’s satisfaction:

  • How would a patient know that the person he is online with is a genuine doctor? He may be a quack.
  • In case if patient is not satisfied or has any complaint, how this would be addressed?
  • How would the patient pay the fee to the doctor who is being consulted and treating on line?
  • Which countries of the world are using this system?

CEO of Marham says that before having the doctor on their panel, they fully ascertain the genuineness of their degrees/certificates. The certificate issued by PMDC is also verified. Details of these doctors are available on company’s website and patients can find it to be fully satisfied.

An official of Aman Foundation informed that they conduct training courses and brush-ups periodically for their registered doctors, psychiatrists/psychologists, pharmacists and nurses to keep them updated with the latest concepts in the treatment and handling the patients.

President of E – Ilaj said that they keep themselves updated with the way the system is working in the developed world, so that they run the system on modern lines and provide best health care to the patients.

To be continued……


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