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Feature International Health

Heartfile: using technology to get healthcare funding to poor patients in Pakistan

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 07 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5156
  1. Jane Feinmann, freelance journalist
  1. jane{at}

A scheme that makes use of Pakistan’s high levels of philanthropy and mobile phone ownership is enabling medical care for poor citizens. Jane Feinmann, talks to its founder, Sania Nishtar, about her motivations

When Majid, a 15 year old Pakistani labourer, was hit by a tractor, he was unable to afford the surgery he urgently needed. As the sole financial supporter for his widowed mother and younger siblings, he needed to regain full mobility and get back to work. And thanks to Heartfile Health Financing, today Majid is on the road to a full recovery.

Heartfile Health Financing ( is an innovative and ambitious system that uses mobile phones to trigger the speedy transfer of philanthropic funds to patients who need them. Sania Nishtar, a 49 year old doctor and anticorruption campaigner who founded the non-governmental organisation Heartfile, the think tank that launched the funding system in 2010, has united two of Pakistan’s strengths: its high levels of philanthropy and mobile phone ownership. Under the scheme, volunteer doctors report needy patients to the Heartfile team, who then use an online system to register the patient, approve the requests, and organise payments …

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