Like the rest of the world, technology is penetrating deep into every single aspect of life in Pakistan. With unprecedented speed and thoroughness, it is becoming an integral part of everyday life. However, nothing exceeds the remarkable advancement in the field of healthcare. COVID-19 pandemic has all but assured that any healthcare technological progress that might have taken decades to complete only took a couple of years. Nowadays, the world is wholly dependent on tech in medicine, and this dependence is gradually trickling down into Pakistan. Amazing initiatives, like emeds, are changing the tapestry of healthcare delivery.
In 2018, the Pakistan government instituted its digital policy involving different sectors, including healthcare. The Ministry of National Health Regulations & Coordination introduced a new e-health policy that promotes e-medicine, digitised hospitals, online consultations, wearables, and ICT tools and technologies. The progress is slow, but it is happening nonetheless.
Importance of healthcare in the current climate
In the current political landscape, the healthcare situation is not as good as it can be. In fact, the provision of quality and easily accessible healthcare remains questionable in many urban areas, let alone rural ones. Not even secondary or tertiary medical care is uniformly available throughout the country. However, where the previous health ventures failed, perhaps with the right technological help, the current ones may succeed. Telemedicine or telehealth are increasingly picking up the slack for quality medicine where there was none to be found. As a result, they are taking off considerable strain that our healthcare system is burdened with.
Number of doctors in Pakistan
The time has come for the government to do more because private ventures can only go so far. The steps taken until now are just not enough to accommodate the needs of the humungous Pakistani population and the potential number of sick people. According to The World Bank, there are almost 220k doctors in Pakistan–which means there’s only one doctor for every 1000 people. But that’s not the worst of it; a significant amount of these doctors are either non-working female doctors or overseas doctors. So the numbers are just not enough to fulfil the demands of such a robust population.
Potential benefits of e-medicine in Pakistan
- E-medicine has improved and will continue to enhance timely accessibility of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare for urban and rural patients.
- It will improve extended care for chronic diseases from home, helping decrease repeated ER visits, hospitalisation and mortality rate.
- Implementation of the latest tech tools, like tablets, cell phones, body sensors, and wearables, carry countless health benefits and convenience.
- E-medicine services allow consumers easy access to correct information on various disorders, treatment options, medicines and care plans right from home.
- Proper implementation of e-medicine can help create very profitable and realistically sustainable business models that meet the standards of the government, doctors and patients.
- Applications of e-medicine can help throughout the healthcare niche, including care management, diagnosis, patient education, dentistry, chronic disease monitoring,ophthalmology, physical therapy, counselling, and other areas and disciplines.
- E-medicine tech tools can help collect real-time data from the wearable tech that monitor blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, blood sugar levels, ECG, and more.
- The wearable tech can send an emergency signal when the patient suffers from an attack, decreasing the mortality rate.
Budding e-medicine initiatives
E-medicine has boomed in recent years, mainly because the priorities of patients have shifted. Factors like the convenience of access, risk, cost, and exposure mean a lot to common people. That is why the patient-centred approach of e-medicine initiatives has gained such popularity. Some programs focus on reintroducing the large female healthcare workforce that has stagnated back into the field. Female doctors often leave medical practice because of their family commitments, but e-medicine allows them to continue medical practices right from their homes.
Pakistan is also ramping up the production of medical tools and supplies to increase its self-sufficiency. Even Pakistan’s response to COVID-19, swift implementation of SOP’s and immediate lockdown efforts were praised by WHO as unexpectedly efficient. The government has also made efforts to implement the ‘ehsaas’ program, which aims to counter the financial hardships that vulnerable patients face.
Pakistan has also seen immense funding in online consultation and pathology. Some ventures have emerged as leaders of online medicine delivery services. People need only place an order and receive their medication in the remotest corners of the country. These services ensure that slowly but surely, Pakistan is embracing e-medicine.
It’s time to take e-medicine seriously
Telehealth services can potentially change the dynamic of healthcare; this much is clear. They can help cope with the exponentially rising demands of the beleaguered population, chronic disease management and consumer expectations.
Private ventures into e-medicine are all well and good, but they cannot compare to governmental intervention. The government needs to take sufficient steps to overhaul the complete healthcare system and integrate it with the advancements in the field of IT. Furthermore, they must connect all private and public healthcare platforms under a single banner where quality care is provided regardless of the geological barriers.
Can Pakistan handle technological demands?
Pakistan is the fourth when it comes to freelance development in the world. It has more than 2000 IT companies, call centres and development houses. In addition, more than 20,000 IT graduates flood the market every year. It will be very easy to establish an excellent telecommunication infrastructure that integrates healthcare with such resources and technical knowledge. When freed up from the hassle of hospitals, many healthcare providers will also pay more attention to the patients, increasing the quality of healthcare received.