Telemedicine Gains Ground in MexicoBy Sofía Hanna | Mon, 04/26/2021 - 09:00
Q: Previously, you have mentioned that 40 percent of users preferred face-to-face consultations. How has this changed following the pandemic?
A: The number of virtual consultations is rising. From April 2020, which is when we initiated online appointments, to January, we registered more than 3 million appointments. Today, people are in the early stage of starting to consume healthcare online, building word of mouth. Also, people see that these consultations are 20 percent more economical, which contributes to their mass adoption. When people realize the advantages and benefits of using the service, they continue using it.
Every month, about 4.5 million people book an appointment and they return for another one. This is reflected in an increased number of prescriptions. We have delivered over 22,000 electronic prescriptions, which shows how the environment is evolving.
Q: How have Doctoralia’s services changed to better address the needs of patients during the pandemic?
A: Regarding consultations, we were focusing on our video quality so that it requires very little bandwidth to reproduce a good-quality image. Doctors said, however, that it is key to be able to send prescriptions, otherwise patients cannot purchase their medications. We moved away from video improvements and focused on prescriptions, which has been a great success.
Doctors also asked that they be able to share their screen, so we developed this feature that allows them to share videos and figures with the patient. We also developed a record-taking function so the doctor can take notes about the patient. After implementing these three changes, the level of usability increased and more users joined. We now have over 10,000 doctors in Mexico from more than 70 different specialties.
Q: What barriers are preventing the broader adoption of telemedicine?
A: The patients themselves are among the barriers because they continue to think that they need to see the doctor face to face or they will not be cured. However, there is a great deal of data that suggests that a visit to the doctor is not always necessary. Telemedicine not only optimizes consultation time but also reduces costs and minimizes the possibility of exposure to infection. In addition, it widens the scope of services, as doctors can reach remote locations while patients have access to more specialists. Due to the issue of mistrust, we validate all doctors’ credentials through a third party that certifies their identity.
We need to do a great deal of work on public policy to regulate the use of electronic prescriptions in Mexico, allowing, for example, electronic prescriptions for controlled drugs. There are other countries where online consultations are reimbursed to patients or where the first point of contact is through a digital consultation that results in a first diagnosis. In Mexico, this is not the case yet. Once telemedicine is seen as a valid and regulated option, within a year we might experience a boom as an organization. At the end of the day, it is the patient who wins, which is what we are looking for.
Q: How does Doctoralia handle data protection of its patients and doctors?
A: As part of a European company, we need to comply with strict data protection guidelines. We use servers in the US and we have many security filters when hiring new partners. Security has always been a priority for Doctoralia. We do not use patients’ data at any time. Our contracts are exclusive with doctors and we provide them with the tools to store the information. So far, we have not had any issues.
Q: What benefits does Docplanner Group offer to doctors?
A: We are passionate about changing the world and we really want to bring healthcare to more people. Today, we are the largest group in the world in terms of digital health. We have more than 2 million health specialists working with us and this month we exceeded 50 million users looking for a doctor.
We have been operating for three years and in that time, the company has built a team of about 300 people only in Mexico. It would take years for doctors to develop all the tools that we already have. There are 300 developers working with Doctoralia and thinking every day about how we can provide doctors with better tools to make them much more efficient. We have even invested in an artificial intelligence company because we want to help doctors make faster diagnoses and pre-diagnoses. Doctors can be certain that with Doctoralia, they will have access to cutting-edge technology at a very low price.
Q: What are Doctoralia’s goals to expand to other countries?
A: We are satisfied with our current operations and we do not plan to expand at the moment. There is still so much to do in the market. We still see limited penetration in terms of what we could do, particularly in Mexico. We have opened operations in other countries in Latin America and understanding how health models work in each of these countries has been a challenge.
Q: How important is a doctor’s online reputation, today?
A: That is something to which we pay a great deal of attention. We screen all comments and the line is very thin between an acceptable and an unacceptable comment. We do not tolerate insults toward doctors on our portal, nor do we accept when patients question certain things about a doctor’s practice because we are neither a judge nor a medical institution that can determine whether he is right or not, so we do not publish those comments. However, we do publish comments that have to do with the doctor being late or prescribing a drug without explaining what it does, for example. An online reputation is everything for a doctor. A doctor with more than 10 favorable ratings has three times more opportunities to attract new patients than a doctor who has none.
Q: What are the next steps for Doctoralia in Mexico?
A: At the group level, we still need to consolidate our operations in the countries where we are present through the generation of cutting-edge technologies for doctors, clinics and hospitals. In Mexico, this year, we want to grow again at high rates of at least 60 percent compared to 2020. We also want to continue bringing healthcare to patients. We are about to launch a clinical record that the patient can access through an app so they have their entire medical history in one place.
Doctoralia is a platform where patients can find the perfect doctor and easily book an appointment.