I’ve always wanted to be part of something revolutionary that has the potential to change people’s lives in a meaningful way. Born in Dhaka, and having spent most of my life outside Bangladesh – mainly Nigeria, UK, and USA – I’ve incessantly found myself drawn to Bangladesh and its people. After years of working in the technology industry and in one of the top fortune 500 companies in the US, when I moved back to Bangladesh a couple years ago, I felt the two major development areas where technology could be used to bring significant difference in people’s lives are health and education. Over the last few years, myriad perturbing stories from friends and family regarding their experience with the healthcare industry in Bangladesh prompted me to be involved in the health care sector. What brought me to Praava was this impulse to revamp the healthcare service in Bangladesh through technology, in terms of both quality and service.

2016 is already shaping up to be one of the biggest years for healthcare technology ever, with innovations in medical devices, software, and changes in how healthcare is administered. 

Here are some of the most promising healthcare technologies of 2016 and beyond:

The Tricorder – Star Trek Style

Millions of people are inspired by Star Trek, especially when it comes to the thought of achieving the impossible. Futuristic medical devices are no exception.

tricorder, in the make-believe Star Trek universe, is a versatile hand-held gadget used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording. The medical tricorder is a wireless mobile device that monitors and diagnoses the user’s health condition and is held in the palm of a user’s hand. It can be used by doctors to help diagnose diseases and collect bodily information about a patient. The end result is radical innovation in healthcare that will give individuals far greater choices in when, where, and how they receive care.

Qualcomm has a contest called XPrize that was just extended till 2017 for 7 final teams attempting to develop the almighty Tricorder.

Interoperability between Health Systems

An interoperability solution for exchanging patient information across care settings is one specific technological development that will frame the future of healthcare organizations.

By including post-acute care in interoperability strategies, such as long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and home health agencies, healthcare organizations can ensure that critical patient information across all care settings will be connected. Hence, interoperability between health systems can provide a more detailed patient picture for more specific treatment plans and improved patient care.

In the US, hospitals lose $75+ million per year per 100 affiliated physicians due to referral leakage, a burden that can be reduced by proper referral network management. Without an electronic way to exchange information, the process of maintaining different workflow requirement breaks down, information is not accurate, and time is wasted.

The scenario in Bangladesh is very different, and unfortunately much worse. Here, other than a few clinics and hospitals, most healthcare services are fully paper based, and the ones that do have some sort of electronic medical record do not provide patients electronic access to their medical history. As a result, patients in Bangladesh have to maintain their medical files physically and carry them every time there’s a need to go to the doctor. Interoperability between health systems in Bangladesh can only be achieved once it’s ensured that all health providers use some sort of hospital information system (HIS). The integration would be most efficient if they use the same HIS. The good news is, although the health system of Bangladesh is fragmented, in 2008 GIZ agreed to assist Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in developing a well-functioning HIS, which incorporates data across all the different levels of the health system. The initiative that started in 2009 and is still ongoing aims to bridge the gap between the disintegrated systems by bringing together the data from various databases into a single software platform.

At Praava, we are going to have a cohesive HIS system that will include patients’ medical history, appointment management, lab and radiology, and pharmacy – all maintained through a central database so that Praava’s network will be internally integrated at the least. Additionally, we will introduce Bangladesh’s first patient portal through which patients can access their medical history, lab and radiology reports, prescriptions and billing history, as well as appointment management system.

Remote Patient Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring allows patient diagnostic data, for example from electrocardiograms, to be transmitted to health professionals in facilities such as monitoring centers in primary care settings, hospitals and intensive care units, skilled nursing facilities, and centralized off-site case management programs.  Health professionals monitor these patients remotely and act on the information received as part of the treatment plan.

In Bangladesh, a similar concept known as telemedicine, where doctors can treat patients located some distance away and isolated from specialized care, was first introduced in 1999 by a charitable trust named Swinfen charitable. It was an email-based connection between Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) in Dhaka (Bangladesh’s capital city) and Royal Navy Hospital, Haslar. As the telecommunication sector got a huge boom in the last few years, several private and public telecommunication operators have established their networks all over the country, subsequently paving the way for improved telemedicine services. A number of private entities and NGOs have already implemented successful telemedicine projects and continue to fine-tune them, most of these linking rural patients with specialized urban doctors.  

At Praava, we plan to incorporate telemedicine, especially for patients who live far away from the Praava centers, as part of our membership plans for follow up consultations. We also have plans for in-home blood and urine sample collections for the disabled and elderly.

Anti-Aging Drugs

A lot of us dream of living forever, or at least in the foreseeable future to 120+ years old. 2016 will be the year of a new anti-aging drug test that will enter trials and that could see diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s consigned to distant memory. Researchers have already proven that the diabetes drug metformin extends the life of animals, and the Food and Drug Administration in the US has now given the go ahead for a trial to see if the same effects can be replicated in humans. If successful, this would mean that a person in their 70s would be as biologically healthy as a 50-year-old. It could usher in a new era of “geroscience” where doctors would no longer fight individual conditions like cancer, diabetes and dementia, but instead treat the underlying mechanism – ageing.

All these technological advances deeply inspire me to introduce and incorporate cutting edge health care technology to Praava. I’m immensely thrilled about all the possibilities. Hope you are too!

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