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Hello Doctor – a new tele-medicine provider launches in South Africa

Published: 15 April 2011

South Africa has a new tele-medicine provider. Hello Doctor will go live with its consumer services on Sunday, 17 April immediately following the maiden broadcast of a new weekly health, medical and lifestyle television show on SABC3 called Hello Doctor, produced and presented by Dr Michael Mol on Sundays at 17:00.

<i>Hello Doctor</i> – a new tele-medicine provider launches in South Africa
Craig Townsend, a Founding Shareholder and Director of Hello Doctor says the company’s aim is to provide a platform for quality health advice and information. “Consumers will have direct access to highly skilled doctors who can give opinions on predetermined illnesses or symptoms and advise on the best means of getting their medical issue resolved.”

The public can either call a doctor on 087 350 1360 or chat to a doctor online at www.hellodoctor.com.

Dr Steven Holt, Medical Director of Hello Doctor says a tele-consultation is a confidential telephone call with a qualified GP. “Hello Doctor has been borne out by the need to service the increasing number of medical cases in South Africa due to increasing population levels and the decrease in doctor patient ratios. Our service is aimed at alleviating the pressure on hospitals and doctors with routine cases, whilst attending to the convenience requirements of consumers who cannot afford to wait days or hours before they can get to see a Doctor.”

“There is either a tele-consultation fee for this service, payable online or over the phone by credit card or consumers will be able to subscribe on a monthly basis where they will have unlimited access to Doctors for themselves and their immediate family.”

Referring to Hello Doctor’s online service Holt says consumers can post medical related questions online and have these answered real time by qualified GPs. “This service is not confidential as everyone online can see questions asked and the corresponding answers. It is really for broader educational and information purposes and not intended to replace the role of the doctor.

With due consideration to the public holidays in April the operating times will be from 17:00 to 21:00 Sundays, starting Sunday, 17 April. From the beginning of May the operating times for both tele-consultation and online chats will be from 08:00 to 20:00 from Monday to Saturday and from 17:00 to 21:00 Sunday nights to coincide with the TV Show. From June the aim is that the call center will operate from 08:00 to 22:00 seven days a week.”

A content search section on the Hello Doctor website is also available where the public can search by medical condition and view various online articles about the subject of their choice.

“We are not in the business of creating content, but rather providing online medical input from doctors that is considered reliable. People will interact with Hello Doctor as their trusted source of medical information and often intervention” explains Holt.

Online users can search for the nearest doctor or specialist and for the closest pharmacy. You can send a doctor your own article for comment, rate a doctor, join online support groups and interest groups by medical condition, view health tips and be informed about general health alerts.

All online medical content and web-based interactions with Doctors is free.

Commenting on the Hello Doctor TV Show, Dr Michael Mol says to be in good health is not a default setting. “It’s a goal that needs to be actively pursued – and that’s what the Hello Doctor TV series is all about. We’d like to educate, entertain and inspire individuals to live their best life, by being the healthiest they can be. So expect to be challenged, confronted and moved to be a better you, as we explore and extrapolate a variety of medical conditions offering accurate, up to date and reliable information from dermatologists to dieticians, cardiologists to clinicians and every expert in between. Throughout the show viewers will also be encouraged to ‘find out more’ on hellodoctor.com.”

On the business front, The Investment Fund for Health in Africa, a Dutch Private Equity Fund invested EUR 1.2-million in Hello Doctor in July 2010.

Locally Hello Doctor has secured contracts with courier pharmacies Medipost and Pharmacy Direct to offer their patients the choice of renewing every second chronic script over the phone when patients are unable to visit their primary physician. Importantly a report of the tele-consultation is available for the patient’s primary physician.

Additional contracts include Dis-Chem, the We Care Independent Pharmacy Network and Medi+Rite Pharmacies. The nurses/pharmacists in each of the partnering pharmacies become an extension of the doctor at the other end of the phone and can assist doctors in making medical diagnoses. These patients, where appropriate, will then have prescriptions e-scripted to that specific pharmacy so that the patient can leave the pharmacy with their medication. Hello Doctor means that retail pharmacies can offer a much broader range of clinic-based services to the general public and to medical aids.

According to Townsend Hello Doctor we will have an additional 400 to 500 independent pharmacies on board by August.

Holt adds that access to healthcare in Africa is limited and in some areas non-existent. “We now have an exceptional opportunity to marshal South Africa’s world-class medical skills to benefit millions of people who suffer from diseases that are relatively simple to prevent, treat and cure.”

“Although we have launched into the private healthcare sector in South Africa, our ambition is to collaborate with like-minded companies to provide cost effective healthcare services to the employed, but uninsured market, as well as to the public sector. This is of particular relevance in the public sector as the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has stated that tele-medicine has an extremely important role to play in the proposed National Health Insurance Fund.”

“Our health service is convenient, affordable, unique and above all trustworthy. We are responding to the need in the market for both businesses and consumers, to help save time and eliminate certain inconveniences in the healthcare system,” concludes Townsend.
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