Sitata, a service that supports international travelers with safety and health information relevant to their trip, has relaunched its platform with a host of new features, key among which is support for in-app telemedicine visits with a network of vetted travel physicians.
“We knew we do a lot of preventative health information, but when it came to assisting someone in time of need, we weren’t addressing that and we saw a need for that, whether it’s pre-trip, during trip or post-trip,” Adam St. John, Sitata’s CEO and founder, told MobiHealthNews. “We set out to address that, and we are launching the telemedicine platform which includes connections to doctors.”
Sitata developed its new telemedicine functionalities in-house, and built up its corps of practitioners by leveraging existing relationships the company had with travel medicine experts, St. John said. In practice, customers feeling under the weather will input their symptoms or health-related questions into the app, which looks to match them to a local doctor best suited to their needs. Those practitioners specify beforehand whether they are taking appointments in-clinic, as a house call or virtually through the platform.
“So lets say it’s a telemedicine consultation. Sitata can connect the traveler with a practitioner, the traveler then has the option to accept the consultation at the fee the doctor has chosen, and then in the mobile app you can connect to the doctor via chat, send images … and have a video consultation much like any other telemedicine platform,” St. John said. “The difference here is we focused on practitioners that have travel medicine expertise, and our network is a global network. These doctors are going to know about foreign infectious diseases that other doctors may not know or have the training for.”
St. John said that the company currently has practitioners ready in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, France, the UK, Switzerland, Ghana, South Africa, Australia and Hong Kong. Aside from general expansion, he said that the company is ultimately targeting full support for on-demand house calls across each of its coverage areas.
A premium subscription to Sitata’s app costs individuals $59 per year, although a cheaper daily payment option and corporate rates are available as well.
WHY IT MATTERS
While Sitata’s existing travel advisories and localized health information resources already addressed travelers’ health to some extent, anyone who has experienced an overseas illness can imagine the peace of mind an immediate consultation can offer.
“Some driving motivation for my team is we’ve all shared some pretty horrible travel experiences,” St. John said. “I myself just happened to eat the wrong thing in southeast Asia during a backpacking trip and was absolutely crippled with the worst food poisoning you could possibly imagine. At the time I had zero recourse — I had a WiFi connection, but I wasn’t signed up to any telemedicine networks and at the time I was pretty much on my own.
“So to be able to have something like this, to be able to connect to a local doctor … would have been absolutely amazing for me at the time, and I would have done anything to have that capability. You’re in a foreign country, you don’t speak the language. It’s a frightening situation, and we didn’t think the solutions out there today were adequate enough to address that.”
St. John also noted that telemedicine support is just one of the features included in Sitata’s relaunch that is particularly focused on attracting corporate customers, such as itinerary management, chat assistance and an integrated dashboard for tracking active travelers. Incorporating each of these features within a single product could make the company’s offering more appealing to these larger clients than services solely focused on cross-border telehealth.
“So far most of the [telehealth] providers have been restricted to specific geographies, and there are one or two that have started to bridge the international gaps,” he said. “While it’s great that some of the other providers are being able to provide these other resources internationally … Sitata does quite a bit more to try to protect the health and safety of travelers from start to finish, and now we’re getting into the real-time assistance as well.”
THE LARGER TREND
Telemedicine has long been pegged as a useful tool for those seeking care across borders, but the last couple years has seen a focused international effort from virtual care giant Teladoc Health. The company launched its Teladoc Global Care service last September on the back of its Best Doctors and Advance Medical acquisitions, and more recently picked up Paris, France-based MédecinDirect to secure its foothold within western Europe.