You don’t have to imagine a world where you no longer need to sit for hours in a crowded waiting room for your doctor’s consultation because it’s already entirely avoidable. Telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients – is available to you if you’ve got internet connectivity and gives you the ability to talk to your doctor over the phone or via platforms such as Skype, cutting out the time spent in waiting rooms and, in some cases, reducing costs too.
It makes sense that we are heading towards a future in which doctors and patients will be able to consult each other remotely because there are many reasons people find it difficult to see a doctor face to face. In South Africa, people living in rural areas may find it difficult to commute to a city to see a specialist, others elsewhere might work long hours and have to fight their way through traffic, making it hard to get to appointments on time.
The cost of medical treatment is escalating all the time and one of the many reasons for this is because doctors have to maintain their offices, pay staff and expensive insurance. Telemedicine could help cut costs as it would go a long way toward reducing admin fees. There are some telemedicine providers that already offer South Africans the ability to consult with medical experts at a reduced rate or even for free. Here we provide an overview of few: 24/7 BABY LINE
BabyLine is a paediatric telemedicine company that offers 24/7 telephonic advice and help for patients with babies and toddlers under the age of three. Using this service is free if you belong to medical scheme Bonitas. “The service will be available through Health24 on a subscription basis shortly. The annual subscription would equate to roughly the cost of one ER trip,” says Dr Iqbal Karbanee, founder of Paed IQ, BabyLine. In the meantime you can access the service via live Facebook chat with paediatricians through the Clicks BabyClub page on Fridays between 10am and 12pm or chat with a paediatrician on Wednesday from 4pm to 5pm on the BabyLine Facebook page – all for free. GUIDEPOST
This is a specialist telemedicine provider which coaches diabetes sufferers. Patients are often referred to this service through their medical schemes. Graham Rowe, CEO of Guidepost, refuses to outline the costs involved but highlights that this service provides a lot of care that would have cost patients more in time and money. It also provides preventative treatment in that it ensures that patients are taking their medication correctly, eating the right diet and doing enough exercise to manage their weight. “We focus on diabetes and people with ongoing dialysis. Diabetes costs medical schemes R13 billion a year. So that’s what’s driving our premiums up. That cost is mostly hospital cost and that is because the disease is not under control. So medical aids prefer to invest money in prevention,” he points out. HELLO DOCTOR