Have you ever googled your symptoms and you swore you were dying only to find out that it was just the flu or something less alarming? Well, we certainly all have.
While professional doctors highly recommend, we steer away from using Google as our first point of contact (since some of you present these search results as evidence of your self-diagnosis and argue against the doctor’s diagnosis), using our smartphones for better healthcare doesn’t necessarily mean using Google.
A quick look at the healthcare landscape in Africa paints a sad state of affairs that would give Van Gogh’s At Eternity’s Gate a run for its money. Data shows that Africa carries 24% of the world’s burden of diseases and with only 3% of the world’s health workers accessible in Africa, this presents a huge problem – To put this into perspective, a total of 31 countries in Africa only have 10 doctors per 100,000 people, in comparison to countries in Europe that have upwards of 380 doctors per 100,000 people. The situation gets alarming if we look at less developed regions in Africa.
See, in 2013 alone, a total of 272,271 Africans had flown out of the continent to seek medical help, to India, a number that has since drastically grown. This number does not even account for other regions where patients run for medical assistance. It is reported that 60% of Kenyan patient seeking medical assistance abroad prefer going to India and this is replicated in other countries like Tanzania and Nigeria.
31 countries in Africa only have 10 doctors per 100,000 people
As much as patients run to India for its affordable and reliable healthcare, medical tourism (as it is referred to), is a whole costly affair – On top of a hefty travel cost and an average of 8000KM covered on a 15 to 20 hour flight, a good number of those who would want to access India’s doctors are not able to do so.
With this in mind, is it not time for technology to play a role? Is there a way to leverage the use of smartphones to have better access to healthcare? In recent times, we have witnessed the insurgence of remote doctor consultations through a technology known as Telemedicine. The affair is not as complicated as it sounds – it could be as simple as chatting with a medical specialist via messaging platforms, however, providing consultations through any messaging services goes contrary to ethical medical practices, thus the use of specialized Telemedicine platforms for this practice. .These platforms connect patients to not just any medical professional rather someone with significant experience or expertise who can diagnose an issue by looking through medical reports and discussing your symptoms via video consultations.
The beauty of Telemedicine is access to specialists – the same reason people go to India
As much as Telemedicine has the potential to transform the medical industry in Africa, the pool of doctor on the continent is just not wide enough to serve the population without being stretched thin. The current doctors available in Africa already serve a large number of patients they have to see across the different hospitals they serve from, thus, adding the burden of Telemedicine on them would be a burden.
Furthermore, the beauty of Telemedicine is access to specialists – the same reason people go to India, not saying that Africa’s doctors aren’t specialists but the number don’t lie, they aren’t that many, to begin with.
Here comes a promising solution, welcome SeekMed, a Telemedicine platform that aims to provide affordable access to healthcare from some of the world’s best doctors and you guessed it, they are from India, the most favourite destination for Africans for their medical needs.
Access and Affordability
SeekMed allows patients to connect with medical specialists across various medical fields, including cardiologists, dermatologists, neurosurgeons, child specialists, dentists and even kidney specialists, just to list a few. The apps on boards these specialists through a rigorous process, making it easy for the patients to simply connect with them without the worry of their legitimacy.
Through the platform, patients can seek first-time consultations on their medical issues, ask for a second opinion on a diagnostic and even do follow-ups. Patients have the option of chatting with the specialists via text to clarify any issues before consultation and then undergo the actual consultation through a video call with the ability to upload medical records and even for the doctor to recommend lab tests to ensure appropriate diagnosis, and provide e-prescriptions that the patient can use to get medicine locally.
Of course, SeekMed is not for use for emergency situations that require rapid medical assistance, but a well-planned consultation via SeekMed platform can save you from a lot of medical-related hassles.
In terms of affordability, on average, doctor charges $30 per consultation, a fee that SeekMed has slashed down to $15 to start with. On top of this, there are the cost and time savings that come with not commuting from your home to the hospital and other unforeseen costs.
How it Works
Getting through SeekMed is quite a straight forward affair, after downloading the app from the Google Play Store, patients will be required to register for the service by submitting their Name, Location (country, city and ZIP code), phone number and date of birth.
After this, the patient will access to the app’s home screen which offers the following options:
- MedLinks – Gives access to a list of doctors the patient has already been in touch with
- Appointments – lists all past and future appointments the patient has
- Search – this is where patients find specialists and request for appointments
- Confirmation – Doctor receives patients request for an appointment and confirms the appointment based on Doctor’s availability. If the patient is not comfortable with date and time, can request to change.
- Fee payment – Upon confirmation from the doctor, the patient gets an option to pay fees using the app by credit or debit card.
Booking an appointment is as easy as selecting your preferred doctor from the list of 28 categories of specialists – The doctor selection is done through selecting them from the map or from the list as seen below. After which you will proceed to request for an appointment. The doctor will get a notification on their side and you will be notified after they set a date and time to see you, to confirm the appointment, you will be required to make a payment via card or bank to confirm the appointment.
After the appointment has been confirmed, you can upload any medical documents that you deem fit to give the doctor a clear understanding of your situation. On the appointment day, the doctor will then initiate a video call for face-to-face consultation after which, he/she will give a recommendation report or an e-prescription based on your consultation.
At the moment, SeekMed is accessible to patients all over the world but focusing on Africa. Although the company does mention that they already get most requests from users in Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, SeekMed is planning on expanding their support to more African countries in the coming weeks, covering Ghana, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola and South Africa.
As of now, SeekMed is leading the Telemedicine sprout in the continent, with the promise of better healthcare for all Africans.