Bill seeking to institutionalise telehealth and telemedicine introduced in Pakistan’s Sindh Province

A bill institutionalising telemedicine and telehealth in the province of Sindh in Pakistan has been passed on a committee level. 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

According to a news report, the Sindh Telemedicine and Telehealth Bill of 2021 seeks to “facilitate, enhance and improve access to healthcare through distant health platforms and ease the shortage of healthcare professionals”.

Once passed, the law will require practitioners to first register with the government before they can offer telehealth services. 

Another news report noted that practitioners will also have to take an online course on the practice of telemedicine and telehealth, which can be provided by an online technology provider as part of their telehealth platform implementation.

Their telehealth services can be extended to the community, to the general public for the promotion of good health practices and for information and education purposes, according to the report.

The proposed measure also provides for a confidentiality clause which states that no data or information must be shared without the prior consent of patients or authorised caregiver. A breach of this provision will lead to a “penalty of Rs 100,000 (around $1,300) or punishment for the term of two years, either or both”.

WHY IT MATTERS

According to Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, the province’s experience in providing online health services during the COVID-19 lockdowns has been “successful”.

With the proposed legislation, new opportunities will open up for both patients and health practitioners, the news report noted. It will help reduce the burden on secondary hospitals, as well as the financial costs associated with travel. 

Aside from that, it was pointed out that women doctors who have paused their practice will stand to benefit from the law as it enables them to resume work through the provision of telemedicine services.

Moreover, doctors outside the province will be allowed to register as a practitioner who can provide care for residents in Sindh, according to Atif Vighio, Sindh Health Department spokesperson.

The bill will be presented at the next session of the provincial assembly.

THE LARGER TREND

In Pakistan this year, digital health startups that also offer telehealth consultations have attracted investors’ money to scale services. Ailaaj, which primarily offers personalised patient care services in the country, raised $1.6 million in seed funding. Marham, another online platform that offers a range of digital health services, secured $1 million from a seed round. E-pharmacy Dawaai, which also offers teleconsultations, netted $8.5 million in a funding round.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *