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HealthLine, Bangladesh

Summary

The HealthLine Service is an interactive teleconference between a Grameenphone mobile user and a licensed physician, available round the clock. Grameenphone subscribers may seek medical advice on emergency, non-emergency or regular medical situation by just dialing "789".

Program goals

In Bangladesh, the ratio of Doctor to Patient is 4000:1. In the rural areas the ratio is much wider. Grameenphone covers 95% geographical areas of the country, thus extending the tele-reach of the common people. The rural areas, where 80% of the population inhabit, lack hospitals, clinics, health facilities and particularly qualified doctors. To be able to talk to a doctor is a unique privilege for the villager or the man in the street in a regular medical situation or emergency. People from the remote areas in Bangladesh, now find it convenient to pick up their mobiles and call for help.

Key program components

The program extends the reach of primary healthcare to the common people by providing:

  • Information on Doctor and Medical Facilities

  • Information on Drugs or Pharmacies

  • Information on Laboratory Test Report (interpretation)

  • Medical Advice/ Consultation from Doctor (for registered subscribers)

  • Help and advice during Medical Emergency

The service is available to Grameenphone mobile phone subscribers, which number about 20 million in Bangladesh. Those who do not have a Grameenphone subscription can access HealthLine services through Community Information Centres and Village Phones.

Callers range from the common citizens, professionals, and village doctors. The village doctors in particular, who play a vital role in the medical care in the rural areas, find it useful to consult the doctors at the HealthLine call center, if they need additional advice. So far, the doctors received and answered a total of about 3.5 million unique calls on as many as 79 many different medical complaints from all over Bangladesh. The call charges are fixed at Tk 15 for 3 minutes (about US $0.21).

The program is easily scalable as it integrates GSM based networking to expand in different geographic areas using the same platform or facility of HealthLine. Initially, the service set up just one call center in Dhaka, but it is expanding to all 64 districts of Bangladesh within 3 months of requirement. The replication is very simple as the entire platform is based on paperless environment and uses medical information system that can be copied for different locations.

Grameenphone, in parallel, is opening Community Information Centers at about 500 locations outside of the country's urban centers. These centers can be utilized to bring health care through telemedicine in rural communities. All medical call centers would then be integrated and served effectively.