We’re in the middle of a pandemic, however, our health is still a priority so how can we get the help that we need, without jeopardizing our health? Enter telemedicine. The demand for virtual, online, and telephonic medical consultations (as well as requests for doctors notes for work) has risen as a result of lockdown restrictions and people’s reluctance to expose themselves to possible infection by visiting doctors in person.
Experts spoke to Longevity Live on the Nielsen Network. In this series called TheBusiness of Health, they discussed telemedicine in South Africa and how it is changing the way healthcare will be delivered.
The panel included Dr. Steven Holt, CEO of First Care Solutions, Simon Spurr, CEO of HealthCloud, Dr. Kofi Okyere-Dede, co-founder of Novitech Digital, Dr. Jaco Grobler, CEO of Labstix; and Ronel Reyneke, product owner of Allegra Healthcare Management Solutions.
Telemedicine and Longevity
Now, while the move to telemedicine is more pronounced in the United States and Europe, the past few months have seen various medical aid companies, cellphone companies, and pharmacies launch telemedicine offerings in South Africa. One is able to access all sorts of medication from Mednow pharmacy.
The Experts Speak
Dr. Steven Holt First Care Solutions CEO
The CEO of First Care Solutions, Dr. Holt, notes that there have been so many changes in such a short period of time that as a result, telemedicine has found itself catapulted into the mainstream. As a result, he believes that there are a few concerns that still need to be addressed in the industry and that technology, training as well as personnel each need to line up with appropriate regulations, which are still quite relatively young in South Africa.
Nonetheless, as a result of the pandemic, it’s still an exciting time as telemedicine is now getting much more engagement from various medical bodies. According to Dr. Holt, now really is the time to make digital healthcare something that is part of the national framework of healthcare delivery in South Africa as it makes so much sense economically and it will help to deliver more healthcare to more people more often.
Simon Spurr CEO HealthCloud
As someone who has worked with various medical aid organizations and institutions, Spurr noted that the legislation in the country has delayed the rollout of telemedicine. That said, he believes that the pandemic has sparked the need and desire for innovation as well as dialogue in terms of changing behavior and moving forward. Simon Spurr is the founder and CEO HealthCloud.
According to Spurr, for quite a long time, a lot of innovations were kept in the background due to legislation. However, a lot of these innovations are now coming to the forefront. While it’s sad that it took a pandemic to bring these innovations to the mainstream, Spurr believes it was needed to progress such an important conversational piece.
Dr. Jaco Grobler, CEO Labstix
“Telemedicine is not something new, it’s something new in South Africa”, explains Dr. Jaco Grobler, CEO Labstix as he also points out how the value of telemedicine this year in the U.S. may average $250 billion. Telemedicine may provide doctors with the opportunity to engage with patients. This is especially important for those in rural areas battling a lack of medical resources, healthcare providers, and finances.
However, Dr. Grobler shares that there is still a lot of education that needs to be done. This is because some doctors still view telemedicine as a threat to their practices. It’s important for them to know that it’s not a competition, and they too can benefit from telemedicine
Dr. Kofi Okyere-Dede managing director Dekode (Pty) Ltd and co- founder of Novitech Digital
When it comes to the issue of the digital divide within South Africa, Dr. Okyere-Dede shares that there are a few points that one needs to consider. Dr Okyere-Dede is a Medical Doctor and HealthTech Entrepreneur. He uses integrative thinking to help companies to implement Digital Strategy. He is the managing director Dekode (Pty) Ltd and Novitech Digital.
For one, the price of devices is quite a hurdle. In fact, there was a #DataMustFall movement that raised the concerns about the high prices of mobile data.
That said, from an accessibility perspective, Dr. Okyere-Dede does admit that one needs to think creatively and be more localized when it comes to the implementation of telemedicine in the country. That said, every corporate pharmacy needs to ensure that their pharmacies can become an infrastructure for patients that lack access. Many South Africans do not have access to the kind of infrastructure that would enable them to participate in telemedicine. However, Dr. Okyere-Dede points out that it’s imperative that telehealth experts find creative ways to ensure that everyone has access to telemedicine.
Ronel Reyneke, Product Owner, Allegra Healthcare Solutions
Ronel Reyneke is Product Owner Allegra Healthcare Solutions with Allegra. She shares that one of the first things that she and her company did was visit areas that lack the infrastructure and connectivity to participate in telemedicine, and they positioned virtual care as a decision to support current healthcare providers.
As a result, access to pharmacies through virtual care allowed for more patients to be seen in one visit, as opposed to constant referrals to different providers.
WATCH THE VIDEO
The video interview with these panelists contains the full dialogue of this interview, and you can watch it below.