Prashant Jha: The BMJ’s free access trial for South Asian content

prashant_jhaIn 2015, at the BMJ South Asia Awards in Mumbai, we announced a plan to open up access to content relevant to South Asia for readers of The BMJ from the region. Since November 2015, online readers from any of the eight countries in the South Asian region (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) have unrestricted access to articles relevant to a South Asian audience.

The BMJ has been at the forefront of providing up-to-date and peer-reviewed knowledge. The BMJ launched an Indian channel of in February 2013. Over the last three years, there has been an increase in visitors to the Indian channel on our website.

Since the launch of the Indian channel of the website, The BMJ has published a wide range of articles that have covered locally relevant issues and diseases.

In 2013 an article about snakebite received widespread interest. Soumyadeep Bhaumik looked at why the treatment and the training of doctors in India are lacking even though India has the worst snakebite problem in the world.

In May 2014, David Berger wrote about his experience at a rural hospital in India that revealed to him the widespread corruption that afflicts the health system. The BMJ issued a call for a campaign against corruption in healthcare. We received an overwhelming response from doctors in India and across the world who agreed about the need to talk about the problem and tackle it together. The issue received widespread media coverage which led to the then health minister of India to acknowledge rampant corruption in medical regulatory bodies. He vowed to take steps to improve transparency. You can read more about this ongoing campaign on our corruption in healthcare page.

A clinical review looked at the diagnosis and management of dengue fever. This coincided with one of the worst outbreaks of dengue fever in Delhi for five years. As an acknowledgement of the scale and gravity of the problem, The BMJ made all our resources about dengue fever free to access.

In 2015 we decided to expand the scope of the channel to encompass the whole of South Asia as the content is relevant to a wider audience. South Asian nations from the Indian subcontinent have similar demography, disease burdens, and geopolitical influences on healthcare delivery models.

We continue to report regularly on topical news stories relevant to local doctors and policy makers. We have a frequently updated feed of South Asian blogs, as well as a monthly review of South Asian medical journals. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of rapid responses submitted online from South Asian readers, which have doubled since 2013.

An increasing online readership gives us a compelling reason to explore better ways of engaging with our users. The South Asian free trial is an opportunity for us to reach a wider audience.

We think opening up all online content that is relevant to South Asia and letting readers read what they like is a great way for us to learn about what you like, how you engage with our content and what we can do better. We hope that our content will spark debates, inform practice, and help doctors make better decisions.

Better access to knowledge for the provider is linked to better quality of care for patients. This free trial is a part of our commitment to providing unbiased, peer-reviewed, and relevant knowledge to our readers in South Asia.

We encourage you to take advantage of the free trial to access our South Asian content. We would love to hear what you think by leaving a comment to our articles.

Prashant Jha is a physician, engineer, editor, and medical technology innovator. Prashant is senior editor, South Asia for The BMJ and is based in Delhi, India. He serves as Fellowship Director of medical technology innovation program at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi and advises medtech startups. He also serves as the editor of BMJ innovations.