KARACHI: A Pakistani-American startup has joined hands with a major business group in the United Arab Emirates to provide telehealth services to patients in the Middle East and beyond, the company’s president, Ijaz Arif, told Arab News on Friday.
“We just formed a partnership with SEED, one of the most influential groups in the UAE, and this partnership spans over the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and India,” he said, adding that his company would extend the same services to people in the UAE and Saudi Arabia that it offered its clients in the United States since most residents of the two Arab states did not have affordability issues.
“For places like Pakistan, India and North Africa, we will have to come up with new ways, new technologies that are affordable,” Arif continued. “We are working on that.”
Arif informed that the charity wing of his organization, VeeMed, had collaborated with Indus Hospital, the largest charity health facility in Pakistan’s Sindh province, in the past to offer free medical services to the financially underprivileged segments.
“We at one point were working with Indus Hospital in Pakistan. We will actually continue to do that in order to provide free technology and services to them. We are also planning to help different non-government organizations in the same way,” he said.
Telehealth services have been available in the developed world for a considerably long period, but it only gained momentum in Pakistan with the COVID-19 outbreak when most medics started seeing patients online.
VeeMed, the startup Arif cofounded with Dr. Arshad Ali in 2016, also acquired greater prominence during the same period and started extending its services to the Middle East and North Africa along with India and Pakistan.
Ali, the cofounder of the company, said that telehealth was beneficial even when there was no pandemic.
“In telemedicine, health care services can be delivered at home after a patient makes a request through an online system. A physician can then log in to do medical examination,” he explained.
Ali added that patients in small cities and rural setups could avail the option since good doctors and specialists were usually not available in such areas.
He informed that VeeMed also managed intensive care units (ICU) remotely in areas where senior doctors were not practicing by guiding medics online.
“VeeMed is founded by overseas Pakistanis, and we have developed our own turnkey solutions for virtual health care,” he added.
Meanwhile, Arif pointed out that technology had proved its worth during the coronavirus pandemic and it would continue to grow due to trending online health services.
“Before the pandemic, such online services were not too common, but now people are getting used to it and realize how easy it is to see a doctor through this technology. Big health care systems, governments and clinics are not going to abandon its use even after the pandemic is over,” he said.
“Our response time is less than three minutes,” Arif added. “We have even responded to people suffering stroke in two and a half minutes. Time is very important since it saves lives.”