The Roadblock to Telehealth Penetration in Pakistan Is Not Digital Literacy but Initial Fear Factor, CEO HumWell

While the Covid-induced push to digital solutions has caused countless ecommerce startups to sprout in Pakistan, the small but emerging telemedicine landscape is also showing promise with many new players. With people being advised to stay at home to minimize their exposure to the novel coronavirus, a doctor’s visit is not without its risks as hospitals become pandemic hotspots.

Remote consultation with your physician has emerged as a viable solution in the current scenario. By connecting with your doctor from the safe distance and comfort of your home, you save time and hassle while reducing your risk of contracting the virus by folds. Besides, it also gives the much-needed push to telehealth in Pakistan.

But it’s not as popular as it could have been and one telemedicine app – HumWell – is aiming to change that. This 360-degree telemedicine app is a collaborative effort of experienced health professionals and technology experts joining hands to bring primary healthcare to the general public at commoditized pricing.

An all-inclusive online patient care system, HumWell enables individuals from all across Pakistan to reach out to qualified medical practitioners for their healthcare needs right in the comfort of their homes. Believing that it’s not a lack of digital literacy but an initial fear factor towards digital health solutions that’s kept telemedicine from achieving its true potential in Pakistan, HumWell hopes to bring a positive change.

We at ProPakistani got in touch with Adnan H Zaidi, CEO of this up-and-coming telehealth startup, and discussed his vision and gaps in the local digital health solutions market. Here’s how the conversation went.

Q. How and when did the idea of HumWell occur to you?

A. It revolves around our prime motto that is purpose, purpose, purpose, and then profit. We had always wished to do something for alleviating the health sector and as veterans of the telecom industry, specialized in its infrastructure, we believe that it was high time the provision of commoditized health facilities was made a top-tier priority. We embarked on this mission in 2019 and developed it to be the perfect one-stop primary healthcare platform for the people of Pakistan.

Q. How has been the public response so far?

A. People in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad responded very well to the utility our app has to offer, penetrating our services into smaller cities such as Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Multan, and Muzaffargarh showed promising results & insights for us to build upon soon. Their sincere feedback and patronage have been a welcome supplement to our years of effort.

Q. Which Pakistani city do you have the most users from?

A. We have tested our application in more than 10 cities of Pakistan and have reached out to an extensive range of demographics, we faced resistance initially for people to understand the utility, concept, and importance of such a platform, but once they got around, they stuck around. The feedback all in all is unanimous, that the utility and access to doctors are unparalleled.

Q. Tell us about the key features of the HumWell app.

A. We have an extensive range of features including:

  • ON-DEMAND DOCTOR CONSULTATIONS: We provide our users with on-demand doctor consultations 24/7, meaning that they don’t have to book an appointment, they just tap the call button to connect to a doctor anytime, anywhere.
  • UPDATED MEDICAL RECORDS: After you consult with the doctor, your updated medical record is stored and accessible on your application, your prescriptions and notes by doctors are in the notes section.
  • CLINICAL FACILITATORS: At the beginning of our consultation, our clinical facilitator converses with you regarding your medical history to generate your medical profile.
  • UPLOADS: You can also upload any pictures and reports regarding your condition in the upload section.
  • FOLLOW UP APPOINTMENTS: Our doctors can sometimes schedule you a follow-up appointment if they think that it’s necessary, you will be alerted in intervals before your follow-up appointment so that you don’t miss out.
  • HEALTHCARE LIBRARY & FACILITIES: Our focus is primary healthcare, therefore we emphasize preventions and cure, an extensive healthcare library is in-built to talk about common issues and preventive measures relating to common healthcare concerns. For your ease and convenience, we have also listed down the healthcare facilities, immunization centers, labs, and pharmacies near you.
  • 24/7 IN-APP SUPPORT: In case you run into trouble using our application, we have 24/7 support that you can turn to in-app.

But don’t just take our word for it, we encourage everyone to download and experience HumWell for themselves.

Q. Is the app available in Urdu or other regional languages?

A. The app currently is available in English and Urdu, further languages to be added soon, once that’s done we will have doctors who speak different regional languages to facilitate people from all over Pakistan.

A medical consult is a highly personal affair and we acknowledge the importance of comfort and ease – slowly adding more regional languages is a paramount concern so we may provide our users with that familiarity and ease of consultation through HumWell.

Q. What is the monetization model for HumWell?

A. The monetization model for HumWell is all consultation charges, we have multiple packages for our users to opt from, the validity ranges from a month to a year.

 Q. How is the app/service different from similar apps that exist?

A. The main difference is that we are focusing solely on primary healthcare for the time being; we will include several specializations in the future, depending on their appropriateness to be practiced digitally.

We provide on-demand 24/7 doctor consultations via a video call, along with proper documentation of the doctor’s suggested management, including a prescription, if any. We also offer resources, in the form of a Directory for nearby healthcare facilities, as well as a Library for patient health education.

Q. Many people complain about missed appointments in telehealth services. How is HumWell resolving that?

A. HumWell doesn’t work on an appointment system, our model is on-demand doctor consultation, the only appointments that we have on our application are the follow-up appointments scheduled by our doctors if the need be. We ensure reminders in equal intervals so that our users do not miss their follow-up appointments.

Q. How do you, onboard doctors/medical experts?

A. We have an extremely refined human capital management unit, we invite experienced and fresh medical experts through various job fairs, but since it’s telemedicine and we do not have a lot of talent who has had exposure to telemedicine, we ensure several training sessions for them where we attune them to the norms of telemedicine, after that, we have our internal portals where they are navigated to guide their patients further.

Q. Covid-19 has highlighted the need for telemedicine. How in your view is Pakistan faring in this important healthcare domain?

A. To be honest, we are very lucky that the situation of Pakistan isn’t as badly affected even in the third wave as it has been in other parts of the globe. That being said, people have not outright stopped going to the hospital in the scare of COVID but they are slightly more reserved, and the benefits of telemedicine have come to light.

You don’t have to wait in line for hours, book an appointment and show up at a hospital, kilometers away from your home, it’s all available at a tap of the button, and that too at a very reasonable price point.

Q. Do you think low digital literacy is a roadblock to the uptake of telemedicine in Pakistan?

A. We advocate that Pakistan is not going through low digital literacy, rather, our digital literacy has only increased after the digital intervention and digital transformation in recent past, the lack of digital literacy if there was, there wouldn’t be so many TikTok users, there wouldn’t be an abundance of social media accounts, people from lower SECs wouldn’t have WhatsApp on their phones and they wouldn’t be communicating with you through it, so we believe there is no such roadblock for telemedicine as many people would believe.

Yes, there is an initial fear factor because you have been going to the doctor nearby for all your life and now you will be consulting a qualified medical practitioner from the comfort of your home, but you haven’t met them ever before. But I’m sure with more and more people experiencing it, we are well on our way to even broader opportunities.

Q. What is your vision for HumWell in particular, and Pakistan’s telehealth in general?

A. Our purpose is that every person in Pakistan should have equal access to quality healthcare without discrimination. Therefore, technologically advanced solutions such as HumWell, which are augmented over time through consistent data gathering are the only way forward to enable digital transformation in the healthcare industry.

Q. Lastly, why is Pakistan’s startup ecosystem not thriving despite efforts? 

A. I would humbly disagree. Please understand, that every country when trying to develop an ecosystem, goes through a learning curve, goes through its share of failures, implements trial and error consistently, and finally moves forward with renewed plans – this is how every industry develops.

We have recently stepped into the culture of startups and I believe when they are well versed and when they converge their focus and energies, form a fraternity, an alliance amongst themselves, there will be no stopping us. To one day possibly, be at par with the best of the best on a global stage.

 



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