When Kenya recorded its first case of coronavirus back in March, footfall to health facilities dropped drastically as many Kenyans stayed away for fear of contracting the deadly virus.
Health providers had to innovate to stay afloat, giving rise to telemedicine.
One such firm capitalising on the growing popularity of the concept in the wake of the pandemic is Bliss Healthcare.
The clinic franchise, which has presence in 45 counties, said the pandemic has opened up new opportunities for health providers.
Chief Medical Supervisor Dr Selepe Percival said the firm’s newly launched [email protected] service is picking up fast, especially after a spike in new infections in the country that has further reduced number of Kenyans making hospital visits.
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“The novel coronavirus requires novel ways of business thinking to survive, and the healthcare sector is no different,” he said recently at the launch in Nairobi.
“Digital technology is the key to transformation of every industry, and for us, the tools of telemedicine mean we can turn unsustainable healthcare systems into sustainable ones, equalise the relationship between medical professionals and patients, as well as provide cheaper, faster and more effective solutions for the diseases that plague Kenyans.”
The firm’s vice president Vishal Sharma said they already have 10,000 patients across the country under the package.
And under the [email protected] package, the firm will deploy a fleet of motorcycles to help medics avoid traffic gridlock, especially in urban centres.
Dr Selepe, who has worked in the health industry in South Africa and Ireland, said telemedicine is the future of healthcare.
“Amazon started by getting books ordered online and being delivered offline, just over 20 years ago and now pretty much has become the global postman. Kenyans 10 years ago were only getting pizzas delivered by carriers (bike riders), but now everything, from documents to pyjamas are brought to your home. So why not medicine and healthcare?” he posed.
Globally, experts expect some telemedicine restrictions will return, including fees that are now waived. And some doctor practices will be reluctant to work telemedicine permanently into their practices until they know exactly how they get paid, said John League, a senior consultant with Advisory Board, which researches health care strategy. “They have no appetite for uncertainty,” he was quoted as saying in a recent BBC report. Insurers ultimately will cover more remote care because it can help keep people out of expensive hospitals and emergency rooms, said Arielle Trzcinski, a senior analyst with Forrester, which researches insurers and hospitals, among other clients.
Doctors see it playing a larger role for people with chronic conditions.
More patients with diabetes may get their blood sugar monitored at home, go to a lab for blood draws and then visit their doctor once a year instead of every three to six months.