26 April-2 May 2013 #653

Doctor at your doorstep

Sulaiman Daud

In Nepali culture if a father falls sick, the son is responsible for taking care of him. But as joint families fragment into nuclear ones and dual income households become the norm in urban Nepal, people don’t have the time to take care of sick family members. Taking leave from work is not always possible and puts pressures on those who live pay cheque to pay cheque.

To help fill this gap in Nepal’s medical system, Bishal Dhakal, a cardiac surgeon by profession, started Health At Home in 2009 which brings healthcare services right at peoples’ doorsteps. “By providing care that is on par with hospitals, we allow people to can carry on with their work without constantly worrying about the well-being of their loved ones and also save them the hassle of travelling back and forth from the hospital,” explains Dhakal.

Health at Home offers patients with long-term, chronic illnesses expert and personalised care in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Although this is a fairly new concept in Nepal, services of this kind have been offered in the West for years. The process is pretty simple: families make an appointment with doctors who will assess the patient suggest services. Clients can then customise programs according to their budget and time constraints. “Families can choose to have healthcare services for 24 hours a day or just once a day, it all depends on their needs,” says Dhakal.

The doctor turned entrepreneur, however, faced a lot of ridicule when he first started his business. His family tried to deter him from leaving his lucrative position as a surgeon to begin a venture that at best was risky and at worse foolish. After winning the Surya Nepal Award in 2012 which recognises entrepreneurs who run socially responsible businesses, however, Dhakal silenced all his critics. “I cried when I heard the news and I was equally happy to have proven my detractors wrong,” he says. “Although most people don’t consider healthcare a business, if you’re taking money from people in return for a service it definitely qualifies as a social enterprise. But it’s equally important to give back to the community while still making a profit.”

As Dhakal looks to expand his business to Africa and elsewhere in South Asia, he has a few words of advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps: “To run a social enterprise you need to be responsible, ethical, and self-sustaining in all that you do. Once that’s taken care of, you will create opportunities for yourself and others.”

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