Pakistan is the first country in the world to have launched a free of cost telehealth portal through Whatsapp. The initiative has been made possible by Digital Pakistan and the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), and will help people to connect with domestic and overseas doctors on WhatsApp to address COVID-19 health concerns.
One of the most challenging things about the Coronavirus pandemic is uncertainty: not knowing if you have contracted the virus, or if you need to see a doctor. The telehealth portal is helping people in every way.
After adding the helpline number (+92-300-111-1166) in your contacts, you can message to connect with a chatbot, which can communicate in seven languages to answer your questions. After some screening questions, you can opt to speak to a doctor and will receive either a Whatsapp or voice call.
“There are less than 150,000 doctors for our 210 million population. The common people sometimes have to take a whole day out to travel from their village to a city to consult a doctor. When the Corona crisis happened, the Prime Minister advised us to use technology to address the problems. We wanted to reduce the burden and risk on our healthcare facilities and our doctors,” said Tania Aidrus, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan.
“Keeping this situation in mind, we built our solution with Whatsapp so Pakistanis would not have to learn a new app or website. They can simply message the Whatsapp number and receive a call from the doctor,” Tania further.
“Our doctors and healthcare professionals on the frontlines are doing and have already done so much. One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to scale up digital health solutions. This Telehealth portal allows those doctors who are at home, or overseas Pakistani health professionals, to come to their support and lessen the burden,” added Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health.
The World Health Organization launched a similar service in partnership with WhatsApp. However, Pakistan’s WhatsApp service is unique in connecting volunteer domestic and international doctors to citizens in need.
Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the nation’s doctors to register with the portal. He termed healthcare professionals of Pakistan as ‘warriors,’ fighting to protect their fellow citizens from harm.
This initiative was completed with generous support from PTCL, VentureDive, Infobip, Eocean, Code for Pakistan, and NTC. Each of the partners provided essential technical support and free services to put the project together in record time.
Doctors wishing to volunteer can do so by going on www.telehealth.gov.pk