South Africans are now able to enjoy video consultations with qualified health professionals, thanks to an innovative market offering by First Care Solutions, a medical services and administration company that is part-owned and -funded by RMB Ventures.
The virtual consultations, which are done in partnership with Jo’burg-based ER Consulting Inc, is available to all South Africans who require medical attention in general, and not necessarily just for COVID-19-related health issues.
Unlike various medical aid organisations, pharmacies and GPs that have recently launched online telemedicine offerings in response to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, First Care Solutions and ER Consulting have been in this business for many years.
“This has always been a strategic area for us,” says Dr. Steven Holt, First Care Solutions CEO. “We did our first telemedicine offering back in 2012. And we have been operating telemedicine services for nearly half of the world’s airlines for the past four years to help them deal with onboard medical emergencies.”
What distinguishes the First Care Solutions offering, besides the fact that it is video-enabled, is that it is backed by considerable experience, skills, processes and infrastructure.
“We have a huge group of employed doctors across 28 medical emergency units across South Africa – something no one else has,” says Holt. “This means we can apply governance and training structures to ensure quality outcomes.”
He says governance is the least understood, but most important factor in telemedicine. The protocols and training ensure quality, accountability and the ability to measure outcomes.
Many conditions can be initially diagnosed and treated with a tele-consultation, from urinary infections and minor trauma to sore throats and skin infections. And telemedicine is especially suited to South Africa because the majority of the population do not have direct access to healthcare.
“COVID-19 has prompted strong awareness of the enormous possibilities of telemedicine in terms of its convenience, lower cost and ability to reach large numbers of people who don’t have access to professional healthcare advice,” says Holt. “We expect this trend to continue even after the immediate threat of the virus has passed.”