‘We are here for the middle-class’
In an interview with the Dhaka Tribune's Shariful Islam, Praava Health Founder, Managing Director, and CEO Sylvana Q. Sinha discusses how a personal experience with the healthcare system in Dhaka led her to found Praava Health, as well as her vision for the future of the healthcare center.
What made you want to change from being a legal professional to offering medical services?
While I did study international law, I also studied international development. As such, I was always interested in working on something that I feel is impactful, can serve people, and do some good. I had worked at the World Bank and other organizations, but my whole career I wanted to create something and do something that is sustainable on its own.
I had a bad experience with the Bangladeshi healthcare system in 2010, when my mother had fallen ill, and it was then that I started thinking about developing the healthcare system of the country. However, I still didn’t think at the time that I would end up doing something in this field. If you had told me then that I would end up running a healthcare organization, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Later, a few years ago, I was thinking about Bangladesh and how I had always wanted to do something for the country. I knew that there was a dire need for proper healthcare services, and that was when Praava Health’s journey truly began.
How did Praava get to where it is?
In 2014, there was only a concept in my head. I hired my first employee, our medical director, in February 2016. The lab director and the IT director joined us in April 2016. By June, we had 12 people on our team. In August 2017, we opened the healthcare center at Banani in Dhaka, with more than 100 employees.
Why call it Praava?
The word Praava is a combination of the words "Pran," which means "Life," and "Aava" which means "Beam." Hence, Praava means beam of life.
How does Praava plan to change medical services in Bangladesh?
Praava is a network of family health centers, where patients come first. We envision a world class healthcare system that puts patients first at every level. This means we aspire to be the patients’ trusted partner in health, empowering them to manage their health in a manner that is aligned with their values.
Unfortunately, there is only one internationally accredited lab in Bangladesh at this time, and that is at the ICDDR, B. As a result, there have been many mistakes in diagnosis for various reasons. So, I wanted to build a brand that is based on quality. We have six labs, where we can do about 250 unique tests, and these labs are set up according to international standards. We have already started the process for attaining international accreditation for these labs.
Praava has introduced Bangladesh’s first molecular cancer diagnostics (Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR) lab for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers, as well as the country’s first fully integrated Hospital Information System (HIS), including Electronic Health Records (EHR).
In addition, we have a number of family health professionals, including family doctors, gynecologists, pediatricians, dentists, ophthalmologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, health coaches, as well as counseling and psychological services.
What’s the one thing that makes Praava totally different from other healthcare centers in Bangladesh?
Our tagline is “We care for you like family,” and I think that kind of embodies the difference between Praava and other healthcare centers. We guarantee that our patients get a minimum of 15 minutes if they book an appointment with a family health professional, so patients actually get to take their time to discuss whatever they want to with our medical practitioners. This is, unfortunately, very uncommon in Bangladesh.
Furthermore, we are actually there for the patients at every stage of their journey. We don’t just provide medical services inside the building, but also have an app through which patients can book appointments and get access to their medical records. This is also very rare in other medical centers in Bangladesh. Patients at Praava can download their medical records, communicate with doctors, and even have their scans reviewed by radiologists all over the world.
Every process of ours is designed to get patients the solutions they need quickly, and we use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and a fully integrated, remotely accessible Hospital Information System (HIS) to bring healthcare to our patients’ fingertips. All our facilities are designed for the patients’ comfort, and our service providers receive continuous training according to international medical standards. We strive for accountability and transparency in all that we do.
What is your priority: providing healthcare or business?
I don’t think these two things have to contradict each other, but at a bare minimum, we want to serve the people and the country. We want to provide high quality healthcare services to the people of Bangladesh, which is in many ways still absent. We believe that if we can do this well, we will also be able to build a sustainable and successful business.
And who are your target clients?
Our target clients are middle-class Bangladeshis.
Why the middle-class?
The middle-class is the under-served segment of the population in this country. There are actually very good primary healthcare services available for the masses in Bangladesh, and that is why Bangladesh is doing better in terms of social development indicators than many other countries in South Asia. So, the masses have access to healthcare, while the rich often travel abroad for healthcare services as they can afford it. Expensive healthcare services for the rich are also available in Bangladesh. However, there aren’t many options for middle-class Bangladeshis who seek out a brand they know, can trust, and afford. As such, we are here dedicatedly working for the middle-class people in Bangladesh.