A phone call from Bangladesh informed Professor Khondoker Abdullah Al Mamun of his mother's fourth stage breast cancer diagnosis. At the time, he was doing his PhD at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom.
The doctor's prognosis was that she had around six months left.
Mamun rushed back to Bangladesh. And, after consulting with several doctors, he managed to gather alternative opinions. As a result, he decided to continue his mother's cancer treatment and surgeries.
After six months, his mother beat cancer and was declared cancer-free.
While the doctors said that it is a miracle, Mamun thought otherwise. "It was rather a consequence of informed decision-making and treatment. The more informed you are, the higher chances of [medical] success you get," he said.
Not only did his mother survive cancer, despite having lost a kidney and diabetes, Mamun also managed to regulate her pre-existing conditions with proper management.
This success gave him enough confidence to realise a lot of critical medical situations are manageable with knowledge of the patient's health condition. "While I pursued my post-doctoral fellowship in Canada I started to think, I could save my mother because of my knowledge and through my networks.
A lot of mothers in our country might not have a son like me. I wanted to establish a system for all the mothers in the country like mine, " Mamun told The Business Standard.
Years after his realisation, in Sombag union in Dhamrai upazila, every one of 32 thousand people has a 'health account' now.
"Because of my pregnancy, after every visit, the health visitor gives me effective advice which I follow religiously," shared Tania Akter, a young mother-to-be.
"We do not need to go anywhere. We are getting checked up regularly at our doorsteps," said Fuziron Begum.
Akter and Begum live in Sombag union.
We all know about Facebook and bank accounts. But have you ever heard about a health account, where all the details of one's health condition are tracked and recorded for years after years?
Trained paramedics went door to door documenting health conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, BMI, preconditions among other things, with smart health tools. The data is stored in an AI-driven cloud-based system for further health monitoring, risk assessment and screening, essentially in the 'health account.'
Audri Khatun, who is working as a paramedic in association with NDP (National Development Programme) in Pabna, said, "All the information like blood group, blood pressure, diabetics is easily accessible now through the apps of CMED. Sometimes the users ask me to check and compare with their previous records when I visit for checkups and we can check any data within a few moments now."
Everyone registered gets the opportunity to be checked up by paramedics and later be referred to doctors, even telemedicine, if needed, as many times as necessary for a whole month. And, all of this can be availed for nearly $1 (Tk85). A full family is also covered for around $1 per month.
What started CMED
Mamun quit his job at the University of Toronto and came back to Bangladesh with a mission to establish practice-oriented research and lab culture, which he felt was missing in Bangladesh.
He established his research lab, AIMS(Advanced Intelligent Multidisciplinary Systems Lab) in United International University in 2015. After a year of comprehensive research on the healthcare system, identifying problems and structuring framework for solutions, he established CMED.
Dr Khondoker Abdullah Al Mamun, along with Dr Farhana Sarker, Moinul H Chowdhury and Md Ashraf Dawood, founded CMED, a digital health-tech startup in 2016. It offers an IoT (a system of interrelated digital devices) enabled cloud-based preventive healthcare platform that monitors health parameters, predicts health risks and reduces healthcare costs.
Through a cloud-based medical system framework, the documented data is automatically analysed by AI-driven health kits to refer to further doctors or basic screening of cardiovascular disease, autism, diabetes, blood pressure, etc. - making information available for the patients.
The 60 member team collaborates with medical professionals, engineers and IT professionals, to ensure digital health inclusion in Bangladesh by implementing comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare. By incorporating data-driven health monitoring and referral systems in the healthcare infrastructure, they are working to create accountability in the country's healthcare sector.
ABM Abdullah, former dean of the Faculty of Medicine at BSMMU (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University) and personal physician of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "The project is in an experimental state. If they can expand this work of counselling people at their doorsteps, it will be a sustainable plan for the healthcare system within a few years."
After running their pilot project successfully at Sombag, CMED is currently providing its service in 51 unions to 13 lac people.
CMED is patented in Bangladesh and has been published in international journals.
"The healthcare system in Bangladesh is very scattered and fragmented. It is not preventive, rather curative. As a result, people seek doctors at a terminal stage with death rates from non-communicable diseases like heart attacks, strokes, asthma, diabetes being higher in Bangladesh," said Mamun.
"From our research, we have three main findings that-there is no health record, no referral system and no health insurance in Bangladesh. Every year the patients' growth at hospitals is increasing by 22.5 percent in Bangladesh. While it is good for business, it reflects upon how poor our healthcare system is," he added.
To cope up with this situation, CMED tapped into the Fourth Industrial Revolution based solution- introducing digital health inclusion.
"We take the healthcare service to doorsteps with our application and AI-supported smart health kit. Keeping our goals aligned with the vision of a Digital Bangladesh, we aim to incorporate digital health inclusion within this decade of 2021-2030," explained Mamun.
CMED acquired the Innovation Fund from the ICT division in 2016, to integrate this framework into a business plan. Later, after winning the Grameenphone Accelerator to turn the idea into a commercial prototype, they officially launched their activities.
During the early phase of the pandemic, using their same AI-driven model and risk assessment tools, CMED established a surveillance system for risk reduction, public awareness, digital screening, referral system and contract tracing, further testing and quarantine for Covid-19.
They trained 10,000 government health workers online and served 20 lac people free of cost with their platform and technology, so far.
Moreover, CMED has won Innovation Prize at Seedstarts Summit 2018 held in Switzerland, SDG Inclusion Bangladesh Innovation Award 2018 and the National ICT Award among many other national and international accolades for their work thus far.