After heading out from our guesthouse in Delhi to catch an early morning flight to Patna in the state of Bihar, our team is both excited and nervous about what lies ahead of us once we reach the ground. We will be spending the next two days in one of the poorest states in India, where the average income per capita is ~ $358/year, where the literacy rate is significantly below the national average at ~ 64%, and where extensive political corruption until recently has created massive gaps in providing basic needs. Our client, World Health Partners, has just started implementation of its programs in Bihar, so it is exciting for our team to witness the beginning of a new model which has the potential to truly improve the quality of health care for patients in rural areas.
Today we will visit a potential entrepreneur who is thinking about joining the WHP network as a Telemedicine Provision Center (TPC), where he will be trained to use telemedicine technology to connect his patients in rural areas to trained physicians in Delhi and Patna. We pull off the main highway after an hour and start driving on a single lane road that serves traffic in both directions and is the only inlet to a cluster of villages. As we make the ~3km drive to the main village and pass through the farmlands where farmers and helpers are working in the scorching sun, we begin to realize what rural truly means. I start to appreciate how difficult it must be for inhabitants of this area to make the trip to the bigger towns to receive health care – not only dealing with the extremely hot weather, but also walking several miles to even reach the main road that may or may not have transportation systems.
We pull up to the town and are greeted by what seems like all of the children in the town, who are curious and excited to see the foreign faces. A crowd begins to follow us as we walk to the small storefront where the potential entrepreneur greets us and welcomes us in to where he practices – a table with a chair, a bench, several types of medicines and injectable on shelves, and a fan and single-bulb light hanging from the ceiling – neither of which are currently working because the electricity is out. We begin our interview through our translator, and find out more about him – he has practiced in the village for more than 15 years, he has nearly 100 families that come to him on a regular basis for their health care needs, and that he has a young daughter who he sends to a boarding school to receive better education.
Lily, Calvin, and Mike interviewing a potential TPC Entrepreneur in District of Nalanda, Bihar
As we walk around the village, it’s amazing to see how these villagers make do despite the limited resources they have – no running water, no private restrooms, and frequent electricity outages.
Once we walk back to the town and are ready to leave, we wave to the crowd of children who shyly wave back, and we get into our car to go to the next village.
Mike, Lily, and I hanging out in the village before heading out