Free Telemedicine Services Guarantee Health Access: Hello DoctorBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 08/17/2021 - 08:15
Q: Telehealth experienced a boom during the pandemic. What is Hello Doctor’s main differentiator in this regard?
A: Hello Doctor began operating in 2019, right before the telemedicine boom in Mexico. We offer a free medical consultation app where users can find general doctors and other medical professionals specialized in nutrition, physiology, odontology and physiotherapy.
Additionally, we offer paid consultations in gynecology, dermatology and pediatrics, among our more than 50 medical specialties. We have doctors from flagship hospitals, such as ABC or Angeles, who may charge higher prices than those from public institutions, such as IMSS or ISSSTE. The patient can choose the type of consultation and doctor that better fits their needs.
Through the platform, the doctor can see the patient’s clinical record, request clinical tests and bill for the consultation. For the patient, this is a tax-deductible service.
Q: You provide separate apps for doctors and patients. How do these merge to offer a beneficial experience for both users?
A: Our ecosystem is designed for mobile devices that communicate with each other. We developed two separate apps to create different ecosystems that interact and complement each other. Communication between the two is encrypted end-to-end, providing security and confidentiality for the doctor and the patient.
Security is one of our top priorities. We want to protect the privacy and data of our users with all the resources we have. All our databases use the FHIR standard, which was developed by an international health standards organization called HL7. This codification is in charge of our interconnectivity standards complies with the Mexican NOMs.
Q: Why would doctors prefer Hello Doctor?
A: Patients are demanding telemedicine. At first, our doctors were not using the service very much. Thus, Hello Doctor focused on generating demand through the patient. Our goal is to become the standard telemedicine app for patients, like WhatsApp for professional telemedicine services. We offer different types of communication through the app, so the patient can choose the method they prefer: chat, videocall or phone call. Doctors and patients can also customize care and follow-ups.
We have a board of advisors comprising doctors who have tested the app and provided their input to make it work for them. This is a tool that responds to the needs of care providers and adapts to their routines. The app now includes several functionalities they asked us for. We are also developing other functionalities, including giving doctors the ability to direct their patients to another doctor using the platform.
Patients in Latin America and Mexico tend to establish a close relationship with their doctors, which is both a good and a bad habit. Patients usually text or WhatsApp their doctors at will but a doctor’s knowledge is not free and they should charge for that.
Q: How are you approaching insurance companies to include your services in their policies?
A: This is in our pipeline but first we want to grow. Eventually, insurance companies will come to us. We know the added value our platform offers but working with insurers is time-consuming because we have to provide background paperwork that we currently do not have enough time to focus on. For the time being, we are strengthening our services as much as possible so that insurers eventually find added value in Hello Doctor.
Q: How can technology become a standard tool for care provision rather than just another option?
A: Technology facilitates work and allows us to do what we could not do in the past. Telemedicine enhances accessibility and quality of medical services because it makes medical consultations easier and less time consuming and are as effective as in-person consultations. The benefits speak for themselves. The hardest part was to make people try telemedicine services, which COVID-19 changed. Now, they are commonplace. Hello Doctor offers free consultations to address Mexico’s poor access to healthcare services. According to the GBD the Health Accessibility and Quality Index, the country is at 66.3 percent, right below Cuba, Paraguay, Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica. Telemedicine can improve access to quality providers.
We understand that connecting patients with doctors is not enough because physical interaction will always be necessary. Thus, we are allying with medical devices providers to create a kit to send to patients so they are able to measure their vital signs by themselves, with the same quality devices they would find at a doctor’s office. We are also looking to create ambulatory clinics that use these kits. Our goal is to establish ambulatory clinics in remote regions and to reach out to foundations focused on social goals to reach more zones and people.
Hello Doctor is a digital platform that links doctors and patients. Its goal is to make healthcare available to all.