Creating A Trusted Partner in Bangladesh Healthcare
Public health experts, health economists, agents of foreign specialised hospitals and patients say Bangladeshis seeking treatment abroad is on an upward trend since patients are unwilling to gamble with their life and health. A low confidence in local doctors and flawed diagnosis are forcing a large number of Bangladeshis to travel abroad for treatment of medical conditions such as cancer, cardiac ailment, autism, infertility, as well as medical check-ups, say stakeholders in the sector.
Where patients are going, and why
When it comes to treatment abroad, Bangladeshi patients rely more on neighbouring countries, according to Professor Dr Syed Abdul Hamid, Director of Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University. India, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia are the most preferred countries, while also being cost effective.
What is the social or environmental issue being addressed?
Bangladesh suffers from a severe lack of quality, reliable health care services and an insufficient supply of healthcare organizations to match growing demand. Specifically, there is a major supply gap between the limited free (but variable quality) care available to the poor, and the very expensive (but also of variable quality) health care available to the rich, especially in light of the growing middle class.
Praava Health inaugurated its first Family Health Centre in Banani, Dhaka, in 2017. A Microsoft Bangladesh Biz Spark partner, Praava is building a better patient experience enabled by technology. It is also reintroducing the concept of family medicine, particularly the family doctor, to Bangladesh.
The Banani Praava Family Health Centre is the first in a network of many facilities which will offer consultations with family doctors and a full range of diagnostic services including lab and imaging.
Proper care depends on accurate diagnosis. The company introduced Bangladesh’s first molecular cancer diagnostics lab in breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers, as well as the country’s first fully integrated Hospital Information System (HIS), including Electronic Health Records (EHR) and featuring Bangladesh’s first web and app enabled patient portal.
Praava incorporated telemedicine options for patients to follow up with doctors abroad and they have a collaboration with Narayana Hospitals in Bangalore, India for this purpose. They also have the option for home sample collection for the disabled and elderly.
Praava’s full range of on-site lab services include the following laboratories:
- Histopathology & Cytopathology
- Biochemistry & Immunochemistry
- Microbiology & Serology
- Hematology & Coagulation
- Molecular Cancer Diagnostics (PCR)
The future of health care will leverage artificial intelligence, smart design, and biotechnology, and Praava is planning to use technology to enable a better patient experience and improve access and outcomes in Bangladesh. Additionally, by introducing Bangladesh’s first patient portal through which patients can access their medical history, lab and radiology reports, prescriptions and billing history, as well as appointment management system, they are empowering patients. Praava will maintain international standards for these facilities and plans to obtain international accreditation.
The team is building a health system where patients come first – an outpatient network of health centers with family doctors as well as quality, reliable diagnostics. Because 80-90% of all health care needs can be addressed by a family doctor, Praava’s family health professionals will be the first point of entry into the healthcare system for patients. Family health professionals include family doctors, gynaecologists, pediatricians, dentists, ophthalmologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, health coaches, and psychologists. To accommodate patients who may need to see specialists, Praava has visiting specialists within their health centre.
There is generally a fundamental power imbalance between the doctor – who has the medical knowledge to understand what is happening in the body – and the patient – who is suffering, but may not understand why. It is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate that inequality by providing compassionate care. Every patient should be treated with dignity and feel confident that their health concerns will be taken seriously and addressed appropriately.
Consistently, we hear patients complain that the biggest problem with health care in Bangladesh is a lack of trust. In fact, patients actually feel better when their doctors spend time getting to know them. “Patient-centered care” actually improves patients’ clinical outcomes and satisfaction by enhancing the quality of the doctor-patient relationship, while at the same time decreasing overall health care costs and wastefulness of diagnostic testing, prescriptions, hospitalizations, and referrals. Patient-centered care is a holistic approach to health care. It goes beyond educating patients about their diagnosis and potential treatments by involving them in key decisions about their health, taking into account their personal circumstances and preferences. Patient-centered care requires open communication and consideration of patients’ cultural traditions, personal preferences and values, family situations, social circumstances, and lifestyles. It demands every doctor get to know every patient personally.
Dr. Simeen Akhtar, Senior Medical Director, Praava Health sees the potential for the centre – and its impact – as huge. “At Praava, we ensure that patients are treated with respect, dignity and empathy, and we guarantee a minimum of 15 minutes of consultation time with our family doctors. Our laboratories have been set up accordingly to international standards and protocols and we are seeking international accreditation to provide the most accurate test results to our patients for proper diagnosis and treatment.”
As a non-resident Bangladeshi it’s an interesting moment in Bangladesh’s history. The economy is growing really quickly – about 7 percent per year for the last 20 years – and there are big needs in a lot of different sectors. And health is one area where one can make a really big impact.
Author: Nashya Haider, PhD., MPhil.
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