My obsession with health, particularly mental health, began at a very young age. I was told that two of my maternal uncles and a cousin were pagols (mad people in Bangla). My relatives warned me that pagols can be dangerous so I should be vigilant, especially of my cousin who was locked up in a room for over 35 years. Sometime in my teens, both my uncles passed away within 3 months of each other. It was presumed that my older uncle passed away from shock and depression 3 months into the death of his younger brother. A few years later, my cousin passed away as well, thus ending an era of pagols in my family.

Even today, there are myths around mental illnesses. If a person is showing signs of psychiatric disorders, the person is said to be possessed or else has become a victim of black magic.

Mental health has been largely neglected in Bangladesh and needs to be addressed with utter urgency. As per the WHO-AIMS 2007 report on Mental Health System in Bangladesh, a National Mental Health Survey conducted in 2003 to 2005 showed that about 16% of adults in Bangladesh suffer from mental disorders. The report also states “The total number of human resources working in mental health facilities or private practice per 100,000 population is 0.49.”  

The Praava team plans to set a new standard for healthcare in Bangladesh by bringing in some of the market innovations to Praava Health. Current trends in the healthcare industry include the following:

Health mobile applications

Mobile apps are effective tools that patients can use for self-management of health conditions, particularly chronic diseases. For example, various diabetes mobile applications have been developed that provide diet plans, exercise routines and health advice based on a patient’s diabetes profile.

Healthcare data analytics

Data analytics can substantially improve the practice of medicine as it can lead to disease-specific research, modeling health profiles, early detection of health conditions, prediction and management of disease outbreaks and much more.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI in medicine is the ultimate goal as we continue to build medical databases. Machine learning in medicine is a process such that the machine improves its ability to accurately reach a conclusion about a medical condition by accumulating vast amounts of historical medical data. For example, if a machine has sufficient data on a rare medical condition, this expert machine can assist the doctor in coming up with the diagnosis of this rare medical condition very quickly once the symptoms are entered into the machine. Another example of machine learning is image recognition and interpretation. If a large number of medical scans have been fed into a machine, it can accurately interpret an imaging scan based on historical data of identical images. It is a way to mimic the human brain whereby humans learn by repetition and experience that enables them to accurately diagnose patients.

When I first met the Founder of Praava Health about 2 years ago, I was excited to hear about her vision of providing quality healthcare in Bangladesh. I was particularly drawn to Praava because of the Founder’s enthusiasm on offering innovative services such as annual membership plans, mental health, preventive care, electronic medical records etc.

I am an actuary by profession with many years of experience in the insurance sector, particularly health microinsurance. In Bangladesh, there are only a handful of private health insurance schemes. Most of these schemes do not cover outpatient services because of the high probability and high frequency of outpatient claims. At Praava, we plan to bridge this gap by offering annual membership plans whereby patients can avail specific Praava services for a year. Furthermore, we also plan to partner with private insurers to bundle Praava annual membership plans with inpatient health insurance so that we are able to offer a holistic product to Praava customers.

At Praava, we will focus heavily on management of chronic illnesses. Annual membership plans for specific conditions like diabetes, heart diseases will be offered. For example, a diabetes annual membership plan will include a number of routine doctor consultations over the year, diagnostic tests to monitor diabetes indicators, consultations with nutritionist, and access to health coaches who will work closely with diabetic patients to manage their condition. After all, with the right information and tools, sufferers of chronic disease such as diabetes can lead fulfilling, normal lives.

Praava will ensure that all medical records and data are digitally captured from the onset. The aim is to build comprehensive and reliable medical databases over time that can shape the future of medicine in Bangladesh through research and artificial intelligence.

Given my interest in mental health, experience with health insurance, strength in quantitative analysis, and a sense of responsibility of contributing to the development of the country’s health sector, it made perfect sense for me to join the Praava Health family and embark on this journey to provide innovative, revolutionary healthcare services in Bangladesh.

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