Around 95 per cent of Pakistani women are unable to access medical care despite the fact that 80 per cent of the country’s medical graduates are women. These women either marry straight after graduation or are unable to work after having a baby. The strict socio-cultural norms in the region mean that women are still regarded as wives, mothers and housewives, and it is almost taboo for a Pakistani woman to enter the working world. To circumvent these laws and provide the medical care Pakistan’s women desperately need, a women-led healthcare start-up called, doctHERs created an online platform to bridge the gap.
doctHERs is described as a healthcare marketplace that connects women to qualified female doctors using technology. The initiative enlists female doctors who are not practicing medicine due to social pressures or family constraints. It then connects these doctors to underserved communities in urban slums and rural areas who otherwise are unable to access to affordable, quality healthcare. By doing this, the initiative creates employment opportunities for women who would otherwise be overlooked and it provides care to women who would otherwise have no adequate healthcare options because of a variety of factors, including Pakistan's rugged, diverse geography and civil unrest.
While it is not ideal that women find it difficult to leave their homes to work, doctHERs allows them to practice medicine from their homes using a video-link and the assistance of onsite nurses. The onsite nurse works with the online doctor to examine, diagnose and treat the female patients.
The system is simple, but its impact is immense in a country plagued by gender inequality, high maternal mortality rates, and limited healthcare for women. The team was awarded "Best in Health" at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology Awards (GIST) in July 2015.