BSMMU to launch telemedicine services amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Tabarul Huq, Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-03-31 00:41:52 BdST

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University or BSMMU in Dhaka is launching telemedicine services as Bangladesh’s healthcare system is struggling to fight off a coronavirus outbreak with a shortage of protective gear.

Anyone in the country will be able to get advice from 200 specialists through a phone hotline “soon”, Pro-Vice Chancellor Muhammad Rafiqul Alam told on Monday.

The services will be like those of ridesharing firms - an available doctor will respond to a patient’s call, according to Shamim Ahmed, assistant professor of the university’s respiratory medicine department who is heading a committee to launch the service.

Talks with ridesharing firm Uber were also under way to use its satellite network for the service, Rafiqul said.

The services will be available for diseases, for which the doctors can advise the patients remotely, he said. The others will be advised to visit hospitals, he added.

The BSMMU pro-VC said they were opening a unit in a separate building for patients with fever, cough or cold, symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.

He said they were in talks with two TV stations for advising patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, kidney problems or other complicated diseases through a TV programme.

This service will also be available via phone, Shamim said.

Mugda Medical College Hospital in the capital had already launched a hotline for telemedicine services.

The phone numbers to avail the service are 01844665336, 01844665337 and 01844665585.

Some 25 patients took the services round the clock daily after the launch on Mar 26, the hospital’s Deputy Director Abu Hashem Sheikh said. Local MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury donated the phones for the service, he said.

“We call back whenever a patient sends us an SMS. We give the patient a prescription after hearing their complaints. The patient can buy the medicines but in case of financial inability to do so, a patient near the hospital can come and collect the medicines,” Hashem said.

An assistant professor, a medical officer and a staff member provide the services in each of three eight-hour shifts, he said.

The hospital has prepared 60 beds and 10 ICU ventilators for coronavirus patients, according to the deputy director.