dhrc - Service delivery
Developing countries of South and Central Asia such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, where the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) operates, are renowned for their geographical remoteness, rugged terrain, harsh climate and high poverty rate. Isolated and marginalised communities living in rural, mountainous regions of these countries lack access to qualified health care providers and health care institutions. They have to pay large sums for travel costs, food and lodging to go from remote locations, where it is not possible to obtain high-quality diagnostic services and treatment, to higher level referral facilities.
The AKDN Digital Health Programme is designed to address this challenge. The Programme leverages the power of ICT to link underserved communities with health care institutions and health care providers. The goal is to provide access to low-cost, equitable health services to these communities and help minimise the barriers of distance and time. The Programme also focuses on building the professional capacity of health care providers in South and Central Asia.
The AKDN Digital Health Programme is unique in that it attempts to address three major barriers to health care – access, quality and cost – in low-resource settings via ICT. Digital health services provided under the AKDN Digital Health Programme include teleconsultations and eLearning sessions. Teleconsultations (live and store-and-forward) improve the health status of communities within defined catchment areas by delivering cost-effective diagnosis and treatment while reducing travel and other costs and time spent by patients and their families.
eLearning sessions offered to health care providers under the Programme improve the skills and capacity of health care providers at the health care facilities. This service ensures continuous professional development and enables health care providers to effectively deliver clinical care and manage digital health operations. Health care providers benefit from continuing professional development and are able to provide better, targeted care to patients.
The activities under the AKDN Digital Health Programme strengthen health systems through a two-tier hub and spoke model developed in a systematic, coordinated, evidence-based and cost-effective manner.
Between June 2007 and May 2018, approximately 37,692 teleconsultations have been conducted and nearly 10,974 health care professionals have been trained through eLearning sessions. Currently, a total of 36 facilities in Asia are providing digital health services in various specialties. The ultimate goal of the AKDN Digital Health Programme is to improve health outcomes of children, women and men in target areas of Afghanistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan and Tajikistan in South-Central Asia and Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa.