Dr Suhail Chughtai FRCS, Orthopaedic Surgeon & Medico.legal Examiner, Microsoft Certified Specialist & Tele-health Expert (Pakistan, UAE, KSA, USA, UK), Masters in Telemedicine & e-Health (ongoing), Professor, Faculty of Health Informatics & Telehealth (UHS adjunct faculty), Chairman & Founder: Medical City Online, London, UK, Founder Director: M L Professionals (Business Award winning Medico legal Firm), Director Digital Health & Telemedicine: Association of Pakistani Physicians & Surgeons, UK, Chairman: Pan Arab Telemedicine & Artificial Intelligence Conference 2019, UAE, International Ambassador: Patientory Association, Atlanta, USA, Nominated for Pakistan Foreign Minister Honours List 2020, for using Telemedicine to fight Covid 19
Dr Suhail Chughtai is an orthopaedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience, who felt that there was a need for doctors to adapt to an increasingly technical, digitised world. This prompted him to study Computer Software and Hardware, receiving a Microsoft Specialist certification in 2001, and then going on to teach Medical IT across the globe. After taking a particular interest in Telemedicine as a vital bridge between the patient and the doctor, Dr Chughtai founded Medical City Online, a Telehealth Firm in the UK, which has designed over 20 International Telehealth and Medical IT projects. Part of this new approach views patients Telemedicine Software as “solutions”, rather than just products, and the firm has been actively engaged in helping to lessen the impact of Covid-19 in Pakistan
How did you get started in your career?
I graduated from Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore Pakistan in 1987 and passed my surgical fellowship examination in UK acquiring FRCS diploma in 1992. My journey as an Orthopaedic Surgeon spans over 30 years through UK, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan including “Higher Specialist Orthopaedic Training” from UK. Currently, I am based in East London since 2004 with practice clinic at Harley Street & also in Manchester.
My special interest during Orthopaedic service at a consultant level in UK, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has been in Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Surgery along with Poly Trauma Case Management. I have had the opportunity of working in Pakistan as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon for 4 years alongside teaching as an honorary Assistant Professor in Orthopaedics in Fatima Jinnah Medial College Lahore, a role that help my understanding of the disease burden in Pakistan.
Being an Orthopaedic Surgeon, what attracted you into Telehealth?
I always felt a great need for doctors to learn technology as the tech-driven empowerment of my fellow medical professionals inspired me. Using technology to benefit patients in one form or another attracted me to begin a parallel Computer Software & Hardware study. I got my Microsoft Specialist Certification in 2001 with high scores while I was serving as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon in Saudi Arabia.
I began teaching Medical IT in UK, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE alongside my Orthopaedic service. Since 2001, I have delivered over 150 Medical IT & Telehealth workshops and courses, several of which were accredited by Medical Universities such as the “8-lecture Telemedicine Course” instructed online for University of Health Sciences, Lahore in May-June 2020. Currently studying for master’s degree in “Telehealth and e-Health Management” being enrolled at a European University.
For the last 10 years, I developed special interest in Telemedicine as I take it as a bridge between patient and doctor, removing physical distance between them. By equalizing physician density, it solves several problems of healthcare delivery and especially, for Pakistan’s situation, I believe Telemedicine can lower the disease burden not only in remote areas but also in urban settings for many reasons.
I founded Medical City Online, a Telehealth Firm in UK with a Medical & Technical Board of Telemedicine Domain Experts from USA and UK supported by a large team of experienced Software Developers. Since 2014, I have designed over 20 International Telehealth & Medical IT Projects. My experience in both Clinical Service and Medical IT fields helped me in designing Telemedicine Projects that simulate actual experience of “Patient and Doctor Real Life Meeting”, hence these projects are often regarded by the users as “Solutions”, not just products.
How did you contribute to Covid-19 pandemic challenge faced by Pakistan ?
Being a Doctor and Telehealth Expert with over 20 years experience in both professional fields in UK, Pakistan & Saudi Arabia, it was my natural instinct to think of Telemedicine to limit Pandemic in Pakistan, as otherwise with limited supply of ventilators, a rapid spread of Covid-19 would not have been manageable resulting in significant % of death rate. In a span of one week while working from my base in London UK, I was able to design & deploy the Telemedicine Helpline website, www.Doctors247.online.
The project was launched in Pakistan on 18th March 2020 under the leadership of Governor Punjab Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar and guided by Prof Dr Javed Akram, VC University of Health Sciences, Lahore. I worked along with UHS local management team led by Dr Khurram Shahzad and Dr Humayun Taimur to setup Telemedicine training sessions for doctors at various medical universities before connecting them at our Telemedicine website and phone line. This service provided free medical advice, to over 150,000 people at home in about three months. The net effect of our effort was prevention of crowding of hospitals and clinics to support the anti-Covid Lockdown measures taken by the Government.
What recognition have you received for your work in Telehealth Industry ?
It is an honour to have several of my Telemedicine and Online Medical Education Software projects recognized by receiving international awards such as “Commonwealth Technology Excellence Award”, “Innovation in Medical Technology”, “Award for Making Difference to Human Care” and several more. Two of my Telemedicine projects were lately featured by BBC UK and Voice of America TV due to their impact in limiting Covid-19 in Pakistan. I was nominated as the Chairman of the two day “Pan Arab Telemedicine Conference 2019”, a significant regional event of the year in UAE in the domain of Digital Health.
Apart from chairing the Medical City Online Board, I serve technical consultancy roles in Telehealth and Online Medical Education domains to several notable institutions and organizations such as “University of Health Sciences Pakistan”, “Allama Iqbal Medical College, Pakistan”, “Patientory Associations Atlanta USA”, “Association of Pakistani Physicians & Surgeons UK”. Riphah Medical University Pakistan and King Saud Medical University Saudi Arabia have also used my Software Solutions.
At present, I am writing a book on “Use of Telemedicine to limit Pandemic” on the invitation of a prominent publisher in UK, inspired by the impact of my Telemedicine project, www.Doctors247.online on limited the pandemic in Pakistan. My articles on Telehealth topics have been published in medical journals.
Most recently, I have been nominated on the Foreign Minister’s Honours List of Overseas Pakistanis who have delivered exceptional service to Pakistan.
Telemedicine being new to Pakistan, how would you overcome training of doctors in Pakistan?
Recently, my proposal for formation of department of “Health Informatics, Telehealth and Artificial Intelligence” has been approved by the Chairman Board of Governors of University of Health Sciences, “Former Chief Justice, Mr Tassadaq Jeelani. I have been honoured by the VC Prof Dr Javed Akram with adjunct faculty (Professor role) at the University of Health Sciences and given the responsibility to lead of Foreign Academic Faculty for delivering a master’s degree Course of 8 modules spanned over 2 years to bring advanced Medical Technology skills to Pakistan.
Regarding capacity building of doctors to use Telemedicine service, I have delivered several University Accredited Telemedicine Courses, two examples being “8-Online Lectures in May-June 2020” and “2-days Hands on Workshop in April 2019” at the University of Health Sciences, Lahore.
How would you describe the type of work that you do each day? Why is it important?
My daily work hours vary from 12-18 hours depending upon the nature of work and timeline based pressures. Orthopaedic practice related hours are usually two to three days a week whereas rest of the time is spent on Telehealth related Software work. Both types of professional engagements involve staff training which as well is important to keep on top of the business.
I compartmentalize myself mentally during each type of my work as despite overlap between Clinical and Telehealth Software work, there are discrete elements which need absolute concentration and dedication.
What does an average workday look like to you?
Passion is the driving force through the day as physical tiredness tends to take over at times. A sight on goal and staying ambitious would fly most through the dragging struggle at times.
What has been the greatest hurdle for you to overcome in your career?
Sustaining concentration and dividing attention equally between my Clinical and Telehealth work posed challenge initially though with persistence, I manage things better on most times at present.
What is the best thing about your job?
I find that working for a goal sets you free. You become self-accountable and compare yourself with only the person you want to be. If you love your work and passion is the stimulus, then I find that working is like having a holiday, and that is how I have felt for at least 20 years so far now.
What keeps you motivated and focused ?
My late father, Dr Yousaf Raza Chughtai, a physician, and an Urdu poet/author always encouraged me to think of ailing humanity beyond my physical practice domain with a view to provide medical care to sick people in a larger scale.
After having developed over 20 international Telemedicine projects, with thousands of patients internationally using our Telemedicine service daily in several countries, I now understand the spirit of my father’s advice as the satisfaction out of this service is priceless. I wish if he was alive at this point to see his desire turned into a service on ground.
As a tribute to him, I want to share photo of my late father and part of his poem written for me, also included in his book “Pat Jhar kay baad”.
How do you unwind?
I do daily walk, mostly early hours of morning, light exercise and play cricket, at least one day a week at nets during the season. Spending time with family, listening to music, watching movies and photography are my favourite activities besides work.
Plans for Future
My motivation to keep developing Telemedicine solutions and keep strengthening my role as an International Telehealth Expert stems from the benefit of my work. Fighting Covid-19 with Telemedicine to limit people movement is an example and I felt blessed to be ready to assist the country of my origin, Pakistan by deploying one design of my Telemedicine technology in a span of one week.
There are other non-Covid Healthcare issues in Pakistan, an area where currently I am involved in assisting the Health Ministry of Punjab by designing a “Customized Telemedicine Software”. This service connects patients at Basic Health Units & Rural Health Centres with Medical & Surgical Specialists in District and Tehsil Headquarter Hospitals. Patients in far flung areas of Punjab shall get consultation with relevant specialists without having to travel or wait which solves many problems related to disease burden.
With nearly 30 years of Clinical Service in UK, Pakistan & Saudi Arabia alongside 20 years of hands on experience of designing, deployment, and teaching Telehealth in UK, USA, UAE, Pakistan and KSA, I see myself well placed to assist Pakistan in tackling Healthcare Delivery Issues using Software and Hardware technology. I believe that with creative use of Software and Hardware technology, we can bridge the gaps of our healthcare service while raising quality of care as well. Efficient use of technology will be more cost efficient, scalable predictably with results to be achieved over a shorter span of time.
For me, bringing healthcare technology to Pakistan has been like a mission and a dream to follow. I am glad this vision is being transformed into reality as I see wider number of doctors and patients taking to my design of Telemedicine systems not only in Pakistan but other countries too.