Online healthcare consultation management in times of Covid 19

Online healthcare consultation management in times of Covid 19

by Hugues Landry Ngbesso, Senior Consultant

goMediCAL is a m-health service, accessible via a mobile application, that helps manage the patient-doctor relationship. Available for now only in Benin, it allows people to make an appointment with a doctor, and pay either for themselves, relatives or friends. It also allows doctors to access the patient’s medical file.

As a pioneer in the m-Health industry in Benin, goMediCAL was launched about two years ago by OPEN SI, a local technology company. The app has experienced a significant growth since its launch, for the benefit of patients and health professionals, happy that such a service is available to ease the making of appointments with a doctor. Read more about the opinion and feedback of goMediCAL users in this first blog co-written by UNCDF and Amarante Consulting.

With additional functionalities such as the geolocation of hospitals, the ability to search for pharmacies and ambulances, the possibility to alert patients to take their medication, and/or the possibility for health centers to register patients who do not have the application on their web interface, goMediCAL has become a major player in the health industry in Benin.

This was long before the COVID-19 started disrupting the world as we knew it, confining the entire population for several months and affecting the health condition of thousands to millions of people.

In a context of pandemic situation of COVID-19 with lockdown measures, where the population is requested to stay safe at home to reduce the spread of contagion, one question was predominant: what has been the contribution of goMediCAL to fight against the pandemic?

goMediCAL has made it possible for patients to reach out to a medical center and schedule an appointment with a medical specialist or a general practitioner based on their availability displayed on the app. goMediCAL also organizes the flow of movement to hospitals to avoid hospital crowding and thus significantly limit the risk of contagion.

Additionally, in response to the pandemic, the goMediCAL team has decided to go further by working on two new features in the application which will be launched soon.

Firstly, a new instant communication option will be added to the app allowing patients to get first medical advice by chatting online with a doctor. Based on the remote consultation, the doctor can advise the patient whether to come to the hospital or not. Furthermore, if necessary, patients can be better oriented and recommended to a medical specialist to make an appointment with. This instant communication tool will pave the way for e-consultation in Benin!

The second new functionality is the possibility for the patient to request, directly from his application, a consultation and medical care at home. Indeed, thanks to a partnership with the MEDOM, a network of health professionals specialized in home medical services in Benin, goMediCAL will allow its app users to be visited by a doctor instead of going to the hospital. This offer could be a relief for people with chronic diseases who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus and whose medical condition requires regular trips to health centers.

What lessons can be learned from the implementation of these two new functionalities for goMediCAL and for Benin?

Firstly, in a situation of emergency, the flexibility and creativity of innovative startups can be a powerful tool to bring immediate responses.

Secondly, the cooperation of doctors, medical centers or organizations such as the MEDOM is critical to rapidly implement the tools and then gain quick adoption of the new features. As mentioned by Gilles KOUNOU, the founder of goMediCAL, “We realized early on that a good relationship with the doctors would guarantee the sustainability of the project”.

Lastly, understanding the needs of your customers in any given situation is key to develop pragmatic solutions that work. By knowing what the needs of its customer would be given the COVID-19 context, goMediCAL is positioning itself as a pioneer to deliver decisive solutions to the health industry in Benin. As Doria Rey, Managing Director of goMediCAL, points out, “the Covid19 pandemic demonstrates the limits of conventional health care systems as we know them and confronts us with our responsibilities as a healthcare startup. We must innovate and offer the best tools that allow our fellow citizens to continue receiving treatments in total safety, and in compliance with the measures that are necessary for their own safety but also the safety of people around them during this pandemic

While the lockdown measures are progressively lifted, people are still watchful to the situation and barrier measures against COVID-19 are always advised. The population is learning to live with new behaviors such as wearing masks, maintain distance between people, etc. goMediCAL is also playing a key role on this aspect by advising people on the usual precautions to be taken in such a situation.

This situation should also increase the adoption of digital tools like goMediCAL that help bring patients closer to doctors while limiting the risk of contagion.