The 20th, 21st and 22nd of April was a great learning opportunity for 9 RMPs (Rural Medical practitioners) from Kendua, a sub-district in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. For 3 days, these RMPs underwent an intensive training program, arranged by Amader Daktar (Bengali for ‘Our Doctor’). Amader Daktar is a concern of mPower Social Enterprises, under mPower labs. The vision of Amader Daktar is to create a self-sustaining model of healthcare delivery for rural Bangladesh. This training program was the first step in implementing that vision.
The program focused on developing the skills necessary to successfully play the role of a telemedicine assistant. Each day, the nine RMPs attended two sessions- one developing their medical competency and the other introducing them to tablet PCs and applications to help them intermediate between a rural patient and a remote qualified doctor.
The morning sessions focused on educating the RMPs on common medical conditions in rural Bangladesh, with an emphasis on the complications arising due to inappropriate patient management. The RMPs were also trained on how to conduct basic physical examinations such as checking for anemia, jaundice, edema and dehydration. In addition, each RMP was instructed on how to measure the pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and other relevant metrics that a remote doctor would require during a telemedicine consultation.
During the second half of the day, the RMPs were introduced to tablet PCs and a custom-made app that would essentially allow an RMP to act as a telemedicine assistant. The tablet allows an RMP to register patients and pass on vital medical information over mobile internet, which can then be viewed on a web portal by a remote doctor. The doctor can then initiate a video call to talk to the RMP and the patient sitting in any village bazaar (with access to mobile internet). In the best case scenario, the doctor can then create and send a prescription over the internet to the RMP who can then print it out at his end and hand it over to the patient. In cases where remote consultations are insufficient, the doctor can advise the patient on the next course of action and recommend nearby facilities that can provide the necessary services.
But it wasn’t just the RMPs that learned from this experience. During the morning sessions, the RMPs shared a wealth of experiences about the types of health complications that occur in rural Bangladesh. In the evenings, we got a close up look at the use of the overall system which allowed us to identify a number of small but important tweaks that would greatly improve user experience (for both RMPs and doctors).
These 3 days marked the first step in what is sure to be an extremely challenging journey, fraught with lessons and learning. But if the level of energy and enthusiasm displayed during the sessions count as any measure of future success, I think we’re well on our way to redefining healthcare delivery in rural Bangladesh.
Ahmed Abu Bakr