- Global head of strategy Zarmina Jafar says access to healthcare digitally can be cost-effective for many patients
KARACHI: The Health Bank (THB), a tech-enabled provider of healthcare services, is profitable in all its markets including Pakistan, said its co-founder and global head of strategy Zarmina Jafar.
The Singapore-headquartered company, which caters to Pakistan’s highly underserved healthcare sector among its other markets, offers at-home, personalised, and remote healthcare services.
“Many times, there isn’t a need to visit the hospital for certain illnesses,” Jafar told Business Recorder in an exclusive interview. “Our model provides hospital-level care and remote monitoring while you’re at home. This makes it possible to manage recovery, and general treatment."
Pakistan’s healthcare sector remains a neglected area with the number of hospitals, doctors and beds per 1,000 people much lower than the global average. The coronavirus pandemic brought to light the country’s shortcomings with the surge in number of cases bringing Pakistan’s weak infrastructure to its knees.
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said Pakistan’s healthcare sector is in a very bad state.
“We are much behind than our regional peers – Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh – and our population is growing at a fast rate,” Sajjad said.
With a crippled healthcare system, dilapidated road infrastructure poses additional problems as it makes commute time to and from a healthcare centre much longer. The problem is especially acute in Pakistan's rural areas.
Jafar said THB looks to solve this problem.
Jafar, who has an academic background in economics and policy-making, in 2016 identified the demand for tech-enabled and patient-centric healthcare management. She later became part of the founding team at THB, and is now also the Pakistan CEO.
THB has regional offices in Dubai, Kuwait and Karachi, and was valued at $100 million earlier. However, Jafar said the fund-raising process currently underway would put the company at a higher valuation, refraining from giving numbers.
THB, which currently has presence in Karachi and Lahore, features multidisciplinary teams including nurses, doctors, physiotherapist, nutritionists and diabetes educators.
“We have a growth model. The potential for healthcare in the region is very high. We are continuously expanding the business into the UK and Saudi Arabia while growing in existing markets. Hence, there is a need for capital. The company itself continues to be profitable.”
Having served over 100,000 patients globally, THB looks to provide a holistic range of services on a subscription/fee for service model, she said.
Jafar said an average monthly expense for a patient ranges between Rs3,000 and Rs,5000 in Pakistan
“When consumers (patients) can use a smartphone to financially manage their lives, why not conduct healthcare management digitally too?
“THB aims to fill gaps in the traditional health sector model, offering continuity of care, remote monitoring and health management.
“Access to healthcare digitally can be cost effective for many patients.”
She said her company believes that their model of remote monitoring can not only prevent hospital visits but also enable better healthcare outcomes across communities while simultaneously reducing the burden on an already stressed healthcare system.
“Our service offering ensures maximum impact on patient outcomes and ease of managing one’s health. This includes healthcare managers supporting everything from testing to appointments and insurance processing as well as second opinions from some of the best doctors through our global partners in the UK, USA, Germany etc.”
Jafar said the company conducts ongoing research and trials of smart devices, selecting for accuracy and innovation before localising them for optimum use.
The Pakistan CEO leads the strategic direction of the business, with a focus on building client portfolios, expansion into new markets and developing strategic alliances and partnerships with key stakeholders.