When doctor Sara Khurram became pregnant, her life was not the only one that changed. Dr. Khurram lives in Pakistan and as the founder of the first virtual clinic in the country, she is also changing the lives of many other women.
Calls for gender equality in education have led some countries to investing further in the education of young girls. However, these same pathways of opportunity do not necessarily remain open into adulthood, with many women in some countries not able to continue their education or profession after getting married. Dr. Khurram was one of these women. When she fell pregnant, she, like many other women, ended her medical studies and stayed home.
80 percent of medicine graduates in Pakistan are female however only 25 percent of them go on to work in the field. This has led to a trend whereby countless highly-educated women never get the opportunity to share their knowledge with patients. Medical practitioners are currently few and far between in Pakistan: there is 0.74 doctors for every 1000 residents in the country. To compare: in Germany, there are 3.7 doctors for every 1000 residents. Unfortunately, this is not Pakistan's only health system-related problem. Alongside this, the country is dealing with disabled children and tuberculosis as well as a high rate of maternal mortality. The training of local doctors is, however, usually not good.
Pakistan's Virtual Clinic
So how can patients and doctors be brought together? This was the driving force behind th project 'DoctHERS-in-the-house', which the conventional set up of doctor/patient visits by having the former come to the latter – virtually, that is, either by video call or via the telephone. It's a win-win situation for both sides: doctors can practice their profession (at least part time) from home while impoverished patients receive proper healthcare for around half the normal cost of the price of a regular doctor visit.
With the help of local healthcare professionals, the project has already been able to provide medical attention to more than 500 women. The doctors place particular emphasis on predicting and treating expected complications before or during childbirth and bringing these patients to the hospital which alone can help save the lives.