Grameen Phone's digital healthcare serves 20 lakh in seven months

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Grameen Phone's digital healthcare serves 20 lakh in seven months

Tonic, a digital healthcare system, has served about 20 lakh people in Bangladesh from June to December 2016, with thousands registering for this service every day.

Grameenphone customers can sign up for this service by dialling *789# or download its mobile app to get the service. Except for the voice call, the health advice is completely free of charge, said officials.

Tonic, developed by Telenor Health, uses mobile technology to provide health information, advice and services.

Telenor, the parent company of Grameenphone, introduced the service in Bangladesh last year and now plans to replicate the data-driven solution in other countries where it operates: Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.

“It clearly shows that there is a huge appetite for technology-based healthcare,” said Sajid Rahman, chief executive officer of Telenor Health.

They did not expect such huge feedback when they launched the service, he added.

Since the launch of the service, Tonic has paid Tk 1,000 each for 1,500 health insurance claims. They also provided more than 16,000 discounts at 200 hospitals, pharmacies and diagnostic centres to their registered customers.

Customers can get discounts of up to 40 percent on hospital care. To receive the discount, members have to send an SMS with the hospital code to 789.

Telenor Health arranged an informal gathering on Thursday in Dhaka to discuss their success over the last seven months. However, they did not disclose future investment figures.

Through phone calls, more than one lakh consultations have taken place in the last couple of months, while 30 percent of those calls were related to child health, said Dr Fred Hersch, chief medical officer of Telenor Health.

Grameenphone first introduced digital healthcare in 2010, where customers could speak to a doctor by calling 789.

Currently, the company has 40 doctors in their pool, who are serving customers round the clock, said officials.

Each call costs Tk 5 a minute, which has been approved by the telecom regulator, said Matthew Guilford, chief commercial officer of Telenor Health. “We are only charging the customers here. All other services are free.”

When a customer calls, the doctor can view the customers' health history that is stored in the database and recommend treatment.

“Over the years, there is a huge database of health data, and privacy is guaranteed under the European Union policy,” Guilford added.  The company has another service -- Tonic Jibon -- where customers can get free healthcare tips via SMS. Using Grameenphone internet, customers can also receive health tips without any data charge.

Under the service, more than 13.4 lakh people get tips via Facebook and 2.59 lakh through the Tonic website and app.