Bangladesh Telemedicine Firm Plans to Reach Out to South Asian Workers

A Bangladeshi telemedicine company is set to provide healthcare services for more than five million South Asian workers in the Middle East and Malaysia in a couple of months.

Telemedicine Reference Centre Ltd (TRCL) has already signed agreements with around 25 Gulf and Malaysian companies that recruit workers from South Asia.

Telemedicine is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred through the phone or the internet.

TRCL will launch the mobile phone-based service, said Dr Sikder M Zakir, managing director of the company.

“Under the project, we will start providing medical call-centre services to two million Bangladeshi, 1.5 million Indian and two million Nepalese and Pakistani workers,” Zakir added.

Prime Bank and two investors from the US and India are funding the project, he said.

TRCL has also signed deals with seven mobile phone companies in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

The company is working to set up multilinguistic medical call centres in India, Pakistan and Nepal, from where dedicated physicians will provide healthcare advice to the expatriate workers.

All the workers under the 25 recruiting companies will be registered with TRCL to get the services free of cost. They will call a particular number and get advice in their own language.

The recruiting firms will pay the service charge to TRCL on behalf of the workers, which is no more than one US dollar a month for a person, Zakir said.

They will also be referred to hospitals if necessary.

Zakir said TRCL is now setting up branch offices in nine countries including Malaysia, UAE and Saudi Arabia to comply with those countries’ regulatory requirements.

“It’s a milestone for telemedicine service. The sector is getting institutional shape,” he added.

Established in 1999, TRCL is operating the first medical call centre or electronic referral centre manned by physicians for the largest cellphone operator in Bangladesh — Grameenphone. More than 10,000 people are using the service by dialling a hotline number (789) from their mobile phones every day.

Non-Invasive Way of Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

SYDNEY – Researchers are now able to screen obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with the help of recording devices, eliminating overnight stays in an expensive, specialist facility.

Led by Udantha Abeyratne from the University of Queensland School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, the researchers have developed a non-invasive way of diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea.

Caused by the collapse of the upper air passage during sleep, OSA is one of the most common sleep disorders affecting approximately 800,000 people in Australia alone.

Common symptoms include snoring, waking suddenly and daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, it can lead to stroke, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. OSA has snoring as the earliest symptom; almost all patients snore, Abeyratne said.

We have developed several techniques to diagnose OSA using snoring sounds alone. Sounds are acquired through non-contact recording devices, and features are extracted. At present we are capable of screening OSA with 90 percent accuracy,” said Abeyratne.

These results are unmatched in the world in terms of the non-invasiveness and performance, and unequivocally illustrate the viability of a snore-based, non-contact OSA screening device.

OSA is currently diagnosed using polysomnography (PSG), which requires a full-night lab stay in a specifically equipped sleep suite, connected to more than 15 sensors, said a Queensland release.

Craig Hukins, director of the Sleep Lab at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and co-investigator of the project, said: PSG is inconvenient, expensive and is not suitable for mass screening of the population, especially children.