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Virtual consultations – a way to cut medical costs

by | Nov 16, 2023

Virtual consultations – a way to cut medical costsMost South African medical schemes now offer some sort of remote health consultation service. Making use of these virtual consultations is a great way to save on medical costs.

My scheme (Momentum Health) offers a service called Hello Doctor free to all members. It has saved me nearly a thousand rand this year. My son is away at university and when he is not feeling well, he uses Hello Doctor.

A GP calls him, he explains his symptoms, and the GP tells him what medication he needs to take. This telephonic “consultation” saves me a R380 consultation fee.

If necessary, the doctor will refer the client for an in-person check – that’s what happened when my husband crashed off his bike and had memory loss.

According to Momentum Health, it has provided 70 744 of these telephonic advice calls which did not result in a referral, saving members an estimated R17 million.

All schemes offer an option for a virtual “face-to-face” telehealth consultation. In the case of Momentum Health, this is available at R250 per consultation (2023 rate). Through this service, doctors can remotely diagnose and treat certain conditions, and electronically prescribe certain scheduled medications.

Momentum Health says it has provided 45 194 of these full telehealth consults so far this year, saving members R6 million.

Bonitas has partnered with WhatsUpDoctor, a patient-driven WhatsApp service that allows doctors on the BonCap network to engage with members.

The service helps members communicate with a GP and includes virtual consultations, sharing of prescriptions, blood test results, specialist referrals, etc.

A bot initially prompts the patient to answer certain questions, after which a doctor is alerted via WhatsApp that a request is pending. When the member registers on the service they can choose a GP to engage with, effectively appointing that doctor as their nominated GP.

Discovery Connected Care enables members to access a remotely guided doctor’s visit, by connecting the TytoHome device to your online consultation.

The device sends the doctor a live feed of clinical-grade images and sounds during an online consultation, so that your GP can accurately diagnose and prescribe treatment for common conditions, no matter where you are. Your medicine is e-scripted and ordered online.

Kena Health is an app-based health provider where you can have a virtual consultation with a doctor, nurse, or mental health professional from your smartphone. It is South Africa’s leading medical app with over 200 000 downloads since its launch in March 2023.

Patients can communicate using text, voice, or video. You can access a prescription, sick note, or referral letter that is sent directly to your smartphone. Prescriptions are valid at pharmacies nationwide. You only pay R185 per consultation or R120 for an express consultation for a simple contraception renewal.  There is no subscription fee and you can claim back the consultation cost from your medical aid.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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