Fintech for Health (F4H) – Special Interest Group (SIG) in Bangladesh

On July 26, 2022 ACCESS Health International hosted the first session of the virtual Special Interest Group (SIG) series in Bangladesh. SIG is a virtual forum aiming to create a knowledge-sharing and dialogue platform between fintech, and health-tech players, healthcare providers, insurance companies, government, and development organizations to create new partnerships/models that support financial inclusion solutions for the lower middle income segment. Twenty-eight representatives from leading health-tech and fintech start-ups, payment banks, non-profit organizations, insurance companies, government officials, and healthcare experts participated in the dialogue.

During this session, ACCESS Health International defined the role of the Fintech for Health platform in supporting UHC initiatives that create access to healthcare for marginalized communities without incurring financial hardships. Significant challenges, including high out-of-pocket expenditure, low insurance penetration, and access to primary healthcare using technology, were also pointed during the discussion. The SIG welcomed presentations from both MILVIK BIMA, a Swedish fintech and health company that launched its mobile health app in Bangladesh, and Merchantrade Asia, a Malaysian company that supports Malaysians, and migrant-worker with specific initiatives, to provide equitable access to financial protection during uncertain times.

In 2019, ACCESS Health, with support from MetLife Foundation, launched the Fintech for Health program to explore opportunities at the intersection of fintech and healthcare that enable patients to access quality healthcare more affordably and conveniently. Ultimately, the Fintech for Health program supports the tenets of universal health coverage, in its vision that all people can access quality care without suffering financial hardship, and in its administration, whereby public and private sector health systems are transparent, efficient, and effective. ACCESS Health has convened a Special Interest Group (SIG) in Bangladesh with leaders from the health tech, fintech, and telecommunications sectors, along with development partners and relevant government representatives.

Like many LMICs, the health financing system in Bangladesh is underfunded, lack of proper health insurance, and heavily relies on OOP payment. Bangladeshis pay around 73.88% of their total treatment costs through Out of Pocket. Ensuring healthcare for a population of 168 million in Bangladesh remains a major challenge for the nation. A major portion of the population are living far from the access to minimum health services. Digital health services, telemedicine, health wallet and micro health insurance can play a vital role in reaching out to marginalized population and create access to basic healthcare services.

In the first session, Reynold D’Silva, Global Chief Growth Officer and Managing Director (Asia) of MILVIK BIMA, presented the Milvik Health+ mobile health app, which was recently launched in Bangladesh. Founded in 2010, MILKVIK BIMA offers telemedicine, health screening, insurance, and many other services. MILVIK BIMA was introduced to the Bangladesh market in 2012 and also operates in eight other countries across Asia and Africa. The Milvik Health+ app combines payment tools and e-commerce for healthcare and also has telehealth features that allows users to speak with their doctors and keep track of their appointments and follow-up calls, while also having access to their medical history through the app. Users can also earn “health points,” which are collected with every in-app payment of their health subscriptions; these points can be redeemed for healthcare products, such as ​​medicines, medical equipment, health and fitness wearables, oral and eye care products, and nutritional items. The session was very engaging with participants from various sectors expressed their appreciation for the initiative of this health wallet app. Fintech and health tech specialists from the participant groups also discussed the future of fintech and health-tech collaboration and how it can engage more consumers to take control of their health through flexible health services without the barriers to care.

The second session revolved around migrant workers; a group often subjected to various barriers to care. The migrant workers play an integral role in the country’s economic growth Bangladeshi migrant workers make up 7.5m of the global workforce. But they are often left unprotected due to lack of awareness and accessibility to affordable insurance solutions. In this launch session, Ganason Velu, Chief Insurance Officer, Merchantrade Asia in Malaysia; presented its amazing journey in helping migrant workers. Merchantrade Asia is Malaysia’s leading money transfer, retail and foreign currency exchange company, and has partnered with various insurance companies to offer life insurance protection plans to Malaysians and migrant workers, targeting to specifically benefit the underserved communities in Malaysia. Ganason described the insurance product outline to support migrant workers, highlighting how critical it is to understand the user needs to ensure quality services so that the workers’ have the right protect for themselves and their families during uncertain times. The multilingual features, among the other tailored features, is an example of how Merchantrade has promoted their products and services appropriately with wide reach, such as in Bangla for Bangladeshi Migrant workers, since language barriers are a prominent issue when obtaining information and care management. The audience found the product and service delivery strategy very interesting and engaged with sharing their questions, comments & feedback and are looking forward to seeing more ways in which Merchantrade will work with the Bangladeshi migrant workers and with partners in Bangladesh.

Participants of the SIG showed great interest in continuing the dialogue on Fintech for Health models and have been eager to explore potential partnerships. Since the SIG platform has been launched in Bangladesh with the purpose of creating a knowledge sharing space and partnership-building, the ACCESS International Health team is looking forward to facilitating those discussions between the presenters and participants. If you would like to a partnership to be facilitated and/or would like to participate in prospective sessions, please feel free to contact us: [email protected].