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Doctor consultation app launches in South Africa

By Angelique Ruzicka

We can talk to our family and friends online through virtual communication apps such as Skype and FaceTime, so it’s hardly surprising that companies have popped up promising the same kinds of services when it comes to speaking to our doctor or vet. 

Tip: Having medical aid ensures that your medical bills are covered.

Medici is one such service provider that claims to be revolutionising the doctor-patient relationship. The Medici app is now available in South Africa and will continue to expand into the rest of Africa.

It allows patients to communicate virtually with their own medical providers via text, call or video, anytime, anywhere. 

If their own medical practitioners are not available to provide advice Medici users can access doctors from Hello Doctor’s panel. Hello Doctor describes itself as a mobile health solution that gives people direct and immediate access to doctors for health advice through their cell phones.

Medici’s statement says Hello Doctor currently services over 400 000 patients in South Africa with their own panel of doctors. 

First launched in the U.S., the app hosts an array of practitioners including family physicians,paediatricians, dermatologists, dentists, mental health providers, nutritionists, dieticians and even veterinarians, providing what it says is a more convenient and modernised method of consultation to suit all healthcare needs. 

Users on Medici will receive a consultation receipt so that patients are able to claim back from their medical scheme. Patients who aren't covered by a medical aid will also benefit from the app as a result of the consultation fee being significantly lower than traditional examinations. 

“The current healthcare model in Africa is fragmented and frustrating for both patients and their medical providers,” says Clinton Phillips, founder and CEO of Medici and former chiropractor and rugby player from South Africa.

He says Medici focuses on reinventing the doctor-patient relationship and reforming how healthcare is practiced, and delivered by offering patients and medical professionals a more streamlined and compliant system of communication and record-keeping.

Medici offers patients: 

  • An opportunity to consult or have a follow up appointment from the comfort of your own home, eliminating waiting times and related costs;
  • Peace of mind and timely responses to medical questions or potential emergencies that arise after-hours;
  • An additional, direct line of communication with medical providers;
  • The ability to easily request authorised prescription refills;
  • A centralised location for medical records compiled from the time a user downloads the app;
  • An easy-to-use, transparent payment system integrated directly into the Medici platform. 

Users can communicate safely and discreetly on Medici by downloading the app for free via the App Store or Google Play. Cost per consultation on Medici is determined by the medical provider. For more information, visit www.medici.md

Not all are in support of telemedicine

Back in 2013, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) warned doctors, other healthcare practitioners and the public not to participate in, or make use of, the advertised “Hello Doctor” or any other act of unethical telemedicine, that may be in breach of the Council’s ethical rules and regulations. 

It added that despite submissions by Sanlam Health and MTN as well as Hello Doctor, a subsidiary of Metropolitan Health, being rejected by the Council’s Committee of Undesirable Business Practice in 2012, the Regulator has noticed, with concern, recent initiatives by the MTN Hello Doctor partnership offering text conversations with doctors as well as telephonic “House call” access to doctors” services. 

The HPCSA claimed that practices such as these, are in breach of patients’ rights such as practitioner-patient relationship, patient confidentiality, informed consent.

“The Council is not opposed to telemedicine, however, business models that clearly contravene the HPCSA’s ethical rules and discourage face-to-face consultations between the patient and practitioner, are of grave concern,” said Dr Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba, who was the HPCSA’s CEO and Registrar at the time. 

The HPCSA said it is aware aware of the advantages that new technological innovations can bring to the healthcare industry and that it would revise Telemedicine Guidelines.

However, it stipulated that telemedicine should only be used as a tool to enable practitioners to provide proper care, and currently, telemedicine is successfully used at a distance for the purpose of facilitating, improving and enhancing clinical, educational and scientific healthcare and research, particularly in the underserviced areas of our country. 

At the time of writing Justmoney had contacted the HPCSA for an update on its Telemedicine Guidelines and asked Medici about how it meets these guidelines in order to operate in South Africa.

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