Medgate Philippines sees that telemedicine will persist even if life goes back to the pre-pandemic normal as more and more people realize its convenience and cost-efficiency.
In an email interview with Back End News, Stavros Athanasiou, president, Medgate Philippines, noted the surge of teleconsultations at the onset of COVID-19. In March this year, the company reported a 170% increase in teleconsultations in 2020.
“Now over a year into the pandemic, telemedicine has enabled Filipinos to access expert healthcare while minimizing the risk for both patients and healthcare professionals,” Athanasiou said. “With hospitals and healthcare institutions devoting more time and resources to combating COVID-19, telemedicine also benefits Filipinos residing in areas where access to quality limited, those who cannot travel, and those who seek more convenient options for care.”
Medgate has been in the telemedicine industry since 1998 and arrived in the Philippines in 2016.
While it is not prohibited to consult doctors in hospitals, people take precautions and avoid going to any health facility to avoid contracting the virus, according to Maria Sharon Maranan, chief distribution officer of Generali.
Medgate reported a resolution rate of 80%, meaning 80% of patients who sought medical advice through the platform are treated entirely through telemedicine, eliminating the need to see a doctor for a face-to-face consultation. However, Athanasiou explained that “while telemedicine can help address a wide range of patient concerns, the reality remains that not every case can be treated entirely through telemedicine as emergencies and cases requiring tests or procedures must be treated with hospital care.”
But that is not only the challenge facing telemedicine adoption in the country. Athanasiou noted the need to further increase awareness on why telemedicine is a viable point to access quality healthcare.
“On top of increasing awareness, we must also address a lack of familiarity the public might have with the platform, as one longstanding assumption about telemedicine is that it lacks the ‘human connection’ that in-person consultations have,” he said.
However, for non-emergency concerns, telemedicine has been proven to be a viable platform for the delivery of quality healthcare. At Medgate, we maintain a case resolution rate of 80%. This means that 80% of our patients are treated entirely through telemedicine, eliminating the need to see a doctor for a face-to-face consultation. By effectively treating patients entirely through telemedicine, the platform helps our healthcare systems by lightening the load experienced by our medical facilities.
Medgate’s telemedicine services are not limited to online or video calls, anyone with a phone can call on Medgate and hold a consultation, explained Ronald Estrella, country manager, Medgate Philippines. However, Medgate built its platform based on three pillars: technology, medical guidelines, and doctors.
“Now we’re adding the fourth pillar, which is artificial intelligence (AI), where we’ll be integrating, AI into our processes,” Estrella said. “We believe that AI is what will bring us to the next level of safety, efficiency, and accuracy.”
Medgate also revealed it will be launching a chatbot later this year.
“While the platform of telemedicine has been proven to bring quality healthcare to those in need, improving technology can help increase capabilities, but other challenges remain such as improving general awareness of the platform’s efficiency and access as well,” Athanasiou said. “But looking at our situation now, we ensure having multiple touchpoints — be it over the phone, social media, our website, and our upcoming mobile app for patients to conveniently reach out to us to set a call with our doctors anytime and anywhere. Our services focus on 24/7 teleconsultations for any non-life-threatening and non-emergency health concerns.
Athanasiou, however, stressed that while technology is not the only backbone of telemedicine but the medical professionals as well.
“It is important that we share this vision towards a more efficient and effective healthcare landscape to all Filipinos,” he said.
At present, Medgate has a base of 1.5 million Filipinos who are members of its partners in the banking, health, and insurance industries. Its programs include a full suite of telemedicine services from teleconsultations, certificates of medical teleconsultation, e-prescriptions, and even medicine delivery.
“We focus on initiatives to increase the efficiency of our nurses and doctors in handling teleconsultations,” Athanasiou said. “We revamped call flows, launched remote telemedicine platforms, and improved our mobile app to help improve access to our services.”
He also stressed that their use of a medical co-management approach in consultations is what differentiates them from other companies offering similar services.
“This means that doctors with multiple specializations can consult on a single case,” Athanasiou explained. “Our doctors can also utilize a body of work that our entire global organization generates so our doctors can confidently diagnose, treat patients and offer personalized care just as well as face-to-face consultations.”
In the issue of cybersecurity, Athanasiou explained that aside from teleconsultations records are encrypted for security, Medgate’s doctors are housed in a telemedical center that protects our patient’s private medical data. Photos and screenshots of private data are protected by the platform. All documents issued by Medgate come with a QR code for authenticity and fraud prevention. To detect fraudulent consultations, Medgate employs tools that detect photos found on search engine platforms, and digital rights management software to prevent unauthorized access to documents.
“We have also established a reporting protocol for cases of suspected fraud,” Athanasiou said. “Since our doctors collect private medical data, we ensure consent is given by the patient and incorporated in the process in compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012.”
Medgate and its partners believe the adoption of telemedicine, when integrated into the existing healthcare system will benefit more Filipinos who may not have quick access to medical care.
“Our goal is the same: to provide quality medical care and treatment to anyone in need, and from a standpoint of access, telemedicine has been proven to help,” Athanasiou said.
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