Wednesday June 19, 2024

Digital healthcare: Public, private sector to join hands to train 100,000 graduates

Health Services Academy (HSA) has partnered with Keytaab, a newly established e-learning platform

By M. Waqar Bhatti
June 11, 2024
Psychology students study outside the Competence and Trauma Centre for Journalists inside a universitys psychology department in Peshawar on November 24, 2014. — Reuters
Psychology students study outside the Competence and Trauma Centre for Journalists inside a university's psychology department in Peshawar on November 24, 2014. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Around 100,000 young graduates will be trained in various aspects of digital healthcare, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, health informatics, telehealth and telemedicine, remote consultations, diagnosis and treatment, digital billing, electronic health records, and mobile health applications, experts and officials announced on Monday.

They stated that a one-year postgraduate diploma in digital health applications will be offered by the Health Services Academy (HSA) in collaboration with the Allied Health Professionals Council (AHPC) and Keytaab, an e-learning platform aimed at promoting digital health in the country.

“At present, the use of technology in Pakistan’s healthcare sector is negligible, except for health management systems in some private hospitals, due to the lack of trained personnel. The Health Services Academy (HSA) has partnered with Keytaab, a newly established e-learning platform, and the Allied Health Professionals Council (AHPC) to train around 100,000 fresh graduates in digital health to serve both locally and abroad,” said Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan, Vice Chancellor of HSA, during a digital health seminar in Islamabad.

Former Surgeon General of Pakistan Army Lt. Gen. (retd) Nigar Johar, AHPC President Zamurrad Khan, Saeed Ahmad Shaikh, Director General of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Keytaab, Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar, CEO of Global Health Strategists and Implementers (GHSI), and representatives from various eHealth and digital health platforms attended the event.

Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan lamented that despite technological advancements and the use of AI and machine learning globally, these technologies are ‘alien’ to Pakistan’s healthcare industry. He vowed to train hundreds of thousands of young individuals in applications that are used worldwide, including in India, to minimise suffering and improve efficiency in the healthcare sector.

“We are initially launching a one-year diploma in digital health to train our graduates and enable them to use technology in the field of healthcare. We believe that once our students receive this diploma, they will be able to secure decent jobs not only in Pakistan but also abroad,” Prof. Khan added.

He further announced the development of an app titled ‘Second Opinion,’ created in collaboration with some IT companies, which will provide a second opinion to people who are not satisfied with their current healthcare provider’s advice. “Soon, this app will be available on both Android and iPhones globally,” he added.

The vice chancellor of HSA also announced the launch of a helpline for the public to address their healthcare complaints, stating that unlike the Prime Minister’s Portal, it would be a call centre designed to help the poor obtain quality healthcare and resolve their issues.

Lt. General (retd) Nigar Johar praised the launch of digital health solutions by HSA as a timely decision, calling it the best solution to corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the healthcare sector. “Most issues in healthcare can be resolved through digitalisation, the use of modern technology, and the support of information technology and artificial intelligence,” she added.

AHPC President Zamurrad Khan emphasised that Pakistan faces an extreme shortage of allied healthcare professionals and nurses, and now there is also a shortage of digital health specialists. This shortage can only be addressed through collaborative efforts by HSA, AHPC, and the private sector.

Chief Executive Officer of Keytaab, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, said they have partnered with HSA to launch the first-ever postgraduate diploma in digital health, where young graduates will be taught AI, health system informatics, and other digital health applications to use technology in the healthcare sector. “We plan to train at least 300,000 people in digital healthcare, but initially, we are targeting around 100,000 doctors, nurses, and paramedics to become digital health experts,” he added.

Several other experts, including heads of different digital health platforms and companies, also spoke at the event.