A UAE-based doctor appointment booking platform has fast-tracked the launch of its telemedicine solution to facilitate healthcare services for patients across the country.
Okadoc’s new telemedicine offering — available in both Arabic and English — enables virtual consultations with over 400 doctors from over 35 healthcare providers, with the ability to settle fees online. More than 40 specialities are covered so far.
The startup had originally planned to unveil its telemedicine solution later on in 2020; however, it fast-tracked its release in response to the growing need for remote healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are living in unprecedented times where there’s a greater sense of urgency for patients and doctors to be connected,” said Okadoc founder and CEO, Fodhil Benturquia. “We felt that it was prudent to roll-out our telemedicine solution as soon as possible in the UAE and Indonesia where we are already operating, and facilitate an interactive solution for patients to communicate with doctors from the safety of their homes to get the necessary care they need.”
A total of 38 healthcare providers have signed on with Okadoc to provide virtual-consultations so far. They include: Emirates Hospitals & Clinics, HealthPlus Network of Specialty Centers, Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women & Children, Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, Dubai London Clinics, German Medical Center, and iCare.
The platform, which is approved by the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, works using a peer-to-peer network that permits healthcare providers to register and go live within the same day. Patients can book an appointment with a doctor “within minutes” and receive a video-consultation. They are also able to transfer and receive documents, such as prescriptions or medical records, via the platform.
In terms of payment, consultations cost the same as on-location consultations, and can be paid for using a bank card. Based on insurance coverage, claims can be processed subject to approval with the individual insurance provider.
It is unclear whether any of the healthcare providers will provide free or discounted services during the current pandemic.
WHY IT MATTERS
At the time of writing, some areas of the UAE are subject to partial lockdown conditions and other restrictions, with the emirate of Dubai requiring residents to stay at home from 10pm to 6am daily.
Whilst some restrictions have been lifted during the day, it is still advised to remain socially distant and only go out for necessary tasks.
In the latest figures shared by the UAE government, a total of 15,738 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, with 3,359 making a full recovery so far. Out of the confirmed cases, 157 have lost their lives to the coronavirus.
Okadoc is not the first to introduce telehealth solutions in the UAE during the current pandemic.
In April, the Dubai-based private healthcare entities, Aster DM Healthcare and HealthHub by Al-Futtaim introduced their own video-conference-style consultations to help the public during restricted movement. Both services, currently free, are open to patients who require non-emergency care.
Pre-pandemic, it emerged that the UAE’s Ministry of Health is working with one of the country’s top telecom operators to set up the region’s first virtual hospital.
ON THE RECORD
“At a time where most providers are experiencing a tremendous shortfall in patients’ visits, Okadoc utilises technology to connect patients with doctors quickly on a 24/7 basis, helping transform the existing healthcare model in the region by connecting patients, doctors and healthcare providers seamlessly, removing any barriers. This allows providers to continue the spectrum of care and keep business running,” added Benturquia.
Meanwhile, Majd Abu Zant, COO of United Eastern Medical Group and CEO of HealthPlus Network of Specialty Centers commented: “To ensure a smooth onboarding process to this new platform, over 180 of our physicians and clinicians have been trained in the past two weeks to use the new solution on Okadoc’s platform.
“Such services, including our new medical delivery service, ensure the continuation of care without interruption. Some of the most common specialties that use video-consultations include paediatrics, internal medicine, diabetes management, chronic diseases' management, women’s health, eyes problems, mental health, speech language therapy, occupational therapy and others.”