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Dubai-based healthcare start-up Okadoc said that telemedicine is here to stay even after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It was gaining traction even before the pandemic but due to Covid-19, the adoption has accelerated for instant appointments as we are living in unprecedented times and there’s a greater sense of urgency for patients and doctors to be connected,” Fodhil Benturquia, Founder and CEO of Okadoc, told TechRadar Pro Middle East.
At a time where most providers are experiencing a tremendous shortfall in patients’ visits, he said that 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.
Moreover, he said that the platform has allowed providers to continue the spectrum of care and keep businesses running and reduce the waiting time.
With remote working and remote learning, he said that people have got used to video conferencing, so telemedicine will be there for immediate needs and rather than going to an emergency, the patient can now talk to a doctor instantly.
“When you are sick, driving can be a risk apart from the traffic and the hassle of finding parking and wasting time. When you are diabetic, you may need to visit a doctor once or twice every week and it is a burden.
“Due to Covid-19, most of the clinics and hospitals were not ready for a telemedicine service and was trying to use other video communications tools to solve the problem. In the future, I think that the government may ask every provider to have a telehealth service as a regulatory need and as a backup if another pandemic arises in the future,” he said.
Telemedicine is a complementary product and he said that about 80% of the consultation with the same doctor can be replaced by the app.
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TRA approved apps
Okadoc is one of the telehealth providers and facilitators besides NextGen Healthcare, VSee, Doxy.me, GetBee and Mind Mina Telemedicine to be approved by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) for use in the UAE.
Claiming to be the largest telehealth provider in the UAE, Benturquia said that they have accelerated the launch of the virtual video meeting with the doctor due to the growing demand.
The start-up, which started as a doctor booking facility at Dubai Healthcare City, was supposed to launch the service in the third quarter of this year.
Benturquia said that they have 204 doctors in 43 specialties from 38 healthcare providers live and more than 200 doctors are expected to join soon. They have already done more than hundreds of consultations.
“Patients can book an appointment with their own doctor or a doctor of their choice within minutes. Users can have a video consultation and chat electronically, transfer and receive documents such as prescriptions or medical records and pay for their consultations based on their insurance coverage,” he said.
Humeira Badsha, a rheumatologist consultant at Dr. Humeira Badsha Medical Centre, said that it has been a stressful time for our patients, especially with chronic diseases, last month but Okadoc has stepped in quite fast to provide the platform.
“We wanted a platform that is encrypted to maintain the confidentiality of our patients. We have managed to see more than 50 patients on telehealth last month and really surprised to see how satisfied the patients are.
“I am seeing patients from their homes with their families and in different settings in a casual mode. Dubai is a medical tourism hub and we do see a lot of patients, who can’t get to see us now due to the lockdown, from Baku and the GCC region,” she said.
Big focus on security and privacy
Using end-to-end encryption with the cloud data hosted on Alibaba Cloud and Microsoft Azure in the UAE, Benturquia said that regarding scalability, encryption and security, the platform is compliant with the UAE and international regulations which mean that doctors working from home can have instant and safe access to the platform at a time where they are not able to be present in hospitals or clinics.
Okadoc is the only regional solution that is directly integrated into a provider’s hospital information system; he said and added that the platform is end-to-end encrypted.
Even if the data is hacked, he said that it cannot be decrypted and the audio and video is not recorded.
Benturquia said that they plan to add prescription reminders on the app for the patients and looking to launch a telemedicine app for the doctors this year.
Right now, the mobile app is only for patients and desktop websites for doctors and hospitals.