Experience of using mHealth to link village doctors with physicians: lessons from Chakaria, Bangladesh.
BACKGROUND: Bangladesh is facing serious shortage of trained health professionals. In the pluralistic healthcare system of Bangladesh, formal health care providers constitute only 5 % of the total workforce; the rest are informal health care providers. Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are increasingly seen as a powerful tool for linking the community with formal healthcare providers. Our study assesses an intervention that linked village doctors (a cadre of informal health care providers practising modern medicine) to formal doctors through call centres from the perspective of the village doctors who participated in the intervention.
METHODS: The study was conducted in Chakaria, a remote rural area in south-eastern Bangladesh during April-May 2013. Twelve village doctors were selected purposively from a pool of 55 village doctors who participated in the mobile health (mHealth) intervention. In depth interviews were conducted to collect data. The data were manually analysed using themes that emerged.
RESULT: The village doctors talked about both business benefits (access to formal doctors, getting support for decision making, and being entitled to call trained doctors) and personal benefits (both financial and non-financial). Some of the major barriers mentioned were technical problems related to accessing the call centre, charging consultation fees, and unfamiliarity with the call centre physicians.
CONCLUSION: Village doctors saw many benefits to having a business relationship with the trained doctors that the mHealth intervention provided. mHealth through call centres has the potential to ensure consultation services to populations through existing informal healthcare providers in settings with a shortage of qualified healthcare providers.
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