KARACHI: At least 40% of deaths in Pakistan are preventable, said the chief executive officer for Aman Foundation, Ahsan Jamil at the launch of the organisation’s latest initiative Aman Telehealth. “Most of these deaths occur due to three major factors – lack of transport to a healthcare facility, affordability and lack of decision makers being present at time of the emergency.”
In a previously conducted study, Dr Sadiqua N Jafery concluded that the most common of the three reasons was the lack of decision maker ie husband, mother-in-law, father or mother being present. According to Jamil, the launch of a system whereby you can receive an initial diagnosis and prescription for non-chronic symptoms on the telephone is therefore most opportune. The telehealth project has been in the works for several months now with ongoing training for the 26-strong staff to attend to a caller’s medical queries. The service will be in operation 24 hours, seven days a week on 111-113-737.
“At present we have the capacity to attend to 1,000 to 1,200 calls a day, with 10 attendants in the morning, 10 in the evening and six overnight,” said Dr Zahid Ali Faheem who is heading Aman Telehealth.
The call is answered by a registration officer who notes the caller’s name, address, gender and age. The call is then transferred to a health advice officer ie nurse or doctor where a list of your symptoms are noted in a system. If the programme is unable to generate a suitable response the call is then passed on to a medical officer who further questions the caller about their symptoms.
In case of emergency, the call is routed to the ambulance service.
According to Faheem, among other objectives they hope to achieve greater empowerment for women, early-stage intervention and reduce incidence of medical emergency through this initiative. “In three to five years we hope to increase our attendants to 150.” But the process of increasing staff as well as advertising the service needs to be gradual for a sustainable setup cautions executive director for Aman Health Dr Junaid Razzak.
“The most important thing is to fill the void of missed opportunity,” Razzak said. The most difficult part for a medical professional is not the medical life saving procedures they give but delivering the news to loved ones of the patient’s condition or demise, he added. “It is with the hope to decrease these conversations by early intervention and diagnosis that Aman Telehealth has been launched.”
The service also provides a medical directory to hospitals, laboratories and other medical facilities in the city. While the service is available to people calling from all over the country the medical directory has thus far only been compiled for Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2012.