Arogya parama labha, thakshanang paramang dhanang.
— Lord Buddha?
Going to the doctor’s every time something happens to you isn’t always convenient. But then, most of us in the younger generation have no idea how to react to a particular health situation, especially emergencies, without asking for a doctor’s help. Countries like US have popular medical / health care hotlines with 24-hour support. Two such services have also sprung up in Sri Lanka since recently.
Suwasariya, or Health Net, was inaugurated by the Ministry of Help with the help of ICTA a few months back. The most prominent service it offers is the health information hotline which can be accessed by dialing the number (+94) 0710 107 107. The major plus is that you will be able to talk to the doctors directly. Confidentiality is guaranteed; this will be helpful on situations when you’re not comfortable with discussing your problem with a doctor face-to-face. The service is available in all three languages.
The only time I wanted to contact the service, I was told by the automated answering machine that the service is available only during working days from 8.00am to 3.30pm. In other words, this isn’t a 24/7 service. Which means that you won’t be able to resort to the Suwasariya service in case of an emergency. Apparently Suwasariya offers services through other media like live chat, email and skype (which is highly commendable), but they too suffer from the same drawback.
The First Aid on Your Phone service commenced by Dialog a few weeks ago fills this gap. This 24/7 service is actually provided by Med1 (Pvt) Ltd, an American-managed, Sri Lankan company. Unlike Suwasariya, this aims to provide information in case of a health emergency. Put in another way, they give you the essential first aid tips for any emergency situation. Note that it won’t be providing you with professional medical consultation. You can call the hotline to get advice on situations ranging from a simple leg sprain to a major burn injury or a heart attack (a PDF link to the complete list of conditions covered).
The hotline agents are polite and your call is immediately attended to, at least for now. You may notice a slight stammer in the tone now and then, compared to a doctor is giving advice. But the overall quality of information they provide is high. A few recorded sample calls are available in the Med1 website. Only Sinhala and Tamil samples are provided, however the service is available in all three languages.
First Aid on Your Phone is a value added service provided by Dialog. You can access the hotline by dialing 1990 from your Dialog mobile and you will be charged Rs 8/= + taxes per minute, which is quite reasonable IMO.
The services, both commenced within the last six months, are major steps taken towards a better health care service aided by technology, especially in a country where the only common instance the technology was being used was to make specialist reservations. Some private hospitals have already come along with successful online bill payment schemes and other online facilities are on the way. The future may not be bleak as you think.