Dial-a-doctor: Pakistan’s first telehealth helpline launching next month

Aman Telehealth likely to take calls from Sept 15 on 111-11-3737.

Express August 23, 2011

KARACHI: Got a headache? Back pain? Or excessive vomiting? Soon your solutions may be just a phone call away. Next time you can’t understand why your child has suddenly developed a fever in the middle of the night, instead of rushing to the emergency you can use the soon-to-be-launched telehealth service for an initial diagnosis of the symptoms.

The initiative, Aman Telehealth, under the Aman Foundation banner is scheduled to be open for calls from September 15 at 111-11-3737. Over the last year, the team has been working on creating a medical directory for hospitals, clinics, medical centres and laboratories across the city. They will use this directory to advise people about the closest facilities they can contact for the medical services they require.

While the directory has been compiled mainly for Karachi, the centre expects calls from people across the country. On the other side of the line will be qualified nurses, doctors and mental health counsellors to answer questions and give medical advice on a 24-hour cycle.

“We expect and are equipped to handle about 1,200 calls per day which will eventually increase to a few thousand as we expand our team over the next three to five years,” said Aman Foundation’s executive director, Dr Junaid Razzak. The project initially will have 20 people available to attend the phone calls, the number is expected to expand to 150 over the next few years. The service will be available in English as well as Urdu and the organisers hope to include services in regional languages very soon.

Over the last year, a large group of attendants have been training for a computerised diagnostic programme customised to Pakistan’s needs. The caller will be asked to describe the symptoms. The attendant will enter them into the programme which will then pop up several follow-up questions depending on the answers fed in, leading to a preliminary diagnosis.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th,  2011.

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