When we fall ill, the doctor’s assistance becomes our utmost need. However, before meeting the doctor, many people are forced to endure various formalities like waiting queues, running between medical stores with prescriptions, and more. Just imagine if you could handle these tasks effortlessly from the comfort of your home, using your mobile phone, similar to ordering food or shopping. This would save a lot of time and energy. Four young men from Bihar and Jharkhand exemplified the proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ by addressing these challenges, which are usually worse for the people living in the rural areas and bridging the gap between doctors and patients. Rituraj Swami from Jharkhand, and Suman Saurabh, Mohammad Amanullah and Prince Kumar from Bihar founded Medishala to revolutionise healthcare. They witnessed their loved ones travelling long distances to consult with a doctor and suffering in long queues for doctor’s appointments. This inspired them to find a solution to these problems. With Medishala, patients and their families can now seek medical advice by calling the doctor opting for a video conference easing their burden significantly.
Receiving help from families and friends
The four friends first met at the Patna campus of BIT Mesra. Since all of them come from rural backgrounds and settled in a city, they were often asked by their family members to get the doctors’ contact since they are not easily available in villages and the family members had to often go far to get connected to the doctor. These challenges led to the idea of setting up Medishala and in 2019, the four friends borrowed Rs 20 lakh from their families and friends to start their app to make life easier for people.
Amanullah, one of the co-founders, said the bigger challenge was in training people in using smartphones and apps since people who live in the rural areas do not have much knowledge about phones apart from making and receiving calls. Another challenge is faced in coordination with the doctors. If a doctor has started seeing patients from 10 in the morning, it means 5-10 patients have already contacted him for appointments. In this situation, if a patient approaches that doctor after connecting with them through the Medishala app and seeks immediate consultation either in person or through video call, then the doctor might have difficulty in accommodating the patient. “We came up with a solution to deal with such situations so that the doctor doesn’t face inconvenience in treating the patient and the patient also gets the treatment they need,” Amanullah said.
Treatment through digital medium
Apart from gathering information on treatment through the app, the four youth also opened an e-clinic (digital clinic) in Bihar’s Samastipur and Barhiya where the patients could seek information on primary treatment, medication, etc. Around 25 staff members work in these clinics. If a patient doesn’t want to use a smartphone, they can take help from these clinics by opting for a treatment procedure via video-conferencing. These clinics have a list of reputed doctors and after finding out those who are available online, the patient can contact them directly. The staff members at the clinics fully cooperate with the patients to ensure that they have a smooth experience.
An effort towards enhancing competition
The Medishala team said that among its competitors are those who fool people in the name of giving healthcare service or helping them by promising treatment by good doctors. It said that to beat those people, it also takes up the responsibility to make people differentiate between right and wrong. According to Medishala members, 70 percent of patients who try to connect to doctors come from rural backgrounds. “So, if they can avail the services from the comfort of their home, it means that we have not only ensured that they get the treatment and also save expenses of travelling and use that money elsewhere, like food and other essentials,” they said.
“The doctors send the patients a form after the treatment. We also plan to set up at least 100 pharmacies from where the patients can easily order their medicines,” they said.
The Medishala team believes that a healthy competition eliminates deficiencies and hence it is never afraid of competition or taking on challenges.
Mangal Pandey, the former health minister of Bihar, once cited the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statistics to say that Bihar has 1,19,000 doctors for a population of 12 crore. The shortage of doctors would be addressed in the coming days.
As per WHO’s standards, it is necessary to have one doctor to cater to 1,000 people.
Despite the challenges, the Medishala team is working overtime to ensure that every person gets healthcare services. It even tried to make oxygen cylinders and medicines available when Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak.
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