Had an online doctors' consultations yet? Here's why these offerings are redefining your healthcare future.


Millions of people across the world engaged in online consultations with their doctors over the past year. Is this just part of our overall shift to digital ways of working, studying, shopping and connecting with others? Or is there more to it? Find out about why telemedicine could be a cost-effective and convenient option for you.

"Online technologies have allowed us to work, study, access basic goods and services and connect with others while decreasing our risk of contracting COVID-19. It's no surprise that this has extended to accessing healthcare too," says Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Discovery Health Centre for Clinical Excellence.

"Online doctor consultations had been available to us for some time pre-COVID. A year into the pandemic, Discovery Health's digital platform for online doctor consultations saw a 35-fold increase in uptake as this option allowed scheme members to stick to social distancing but still access healthcare through their trusted providers."

  • What's Discovery Health doing to give you bespoke access to online doctor consultation?

"Discovery Health is committed to providing high-quality healthcare and an optimal patient experience," explains Dr Nematswerani. "That's why we have invested in Discovery's Connected Care platform, which offers not only telehealth video conferencing for online doctor consultations, but also prescription and medicine services through cutting-edge technology. To find out more about online consultations and access to doctors when you need it most, visit the Discovery Connected Care page on our website at www.discovery.co.za.

Telemedicine has solved two pandemic-led dilemmas. Here's how.

The pandemic presented us with two dilemmas:

  • Patients were challenged to find ways of seeing doctors while also adhering to stay-at-home, social distancing and other measures aimed at lowering their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Doctors needed new ways of seeing patients while keeping all healthcare practice staff safe from COVID-19 (really tough considering that healthcare workers are at risk of repeated exposure to COVID-19 every day).

"These pressures created a unique opportunity for telemedicine to come to the fore," says Dr Nematswerani. "Telemedicine means accessing remote healthcare in real-time, with two-way communication between the patient and doctor via a digital platform."

Get used to telemedicine platforms in your healthcare world. They're here to stay

Dr Nematswerani says: "The use of online consultations has not slowed into 2021 and looks set to become a new norm going forward. The bigger, post-pandemic picture is that these technologies meet the needs of ever-more engaged, informed and connected patients who want faster, safer, more affordable, real-time access to care."

The immediate advantages of telemedicine:

  • Currently most relevant:
    • Limit our exposure to COVID-19 by removing the need to go to our doctors' consulting rooms. In this way, we also protect others from exposure to COVID-19 should we have symptoms of the disease.
    • Online consultations allow bedridden patients to access a doctor's services ongoingly, or keep their doctor updated as to how they feel, so worsening symptoms can be quickly detected.

The broad and long-term advantages of telemedicine:

  • Access a doctor conveniently:
    • A mobile phone and internet connection are all you need to access an online doctor consultation and quick medical advice.
    • Talk to our doctor live, over the phone or via video chat when we need their assistance. This prevents us turning to online source - the very unreliable "Dr Google" - for medical assistance and likely ending up confused and unsure of what to do next.
    • Send and receive messages from your doctor using chat messaging or email
    • Access remote monitoring while we continue to recover from illness at home or allow our doctor to conduct follow-up consultations with us to quickly check on us as needed.
    • Save on travel time and transportation costs
    • Reduce waiting times spent sitting in doctors' consultation rooms
  • Avoid serious down the line complications that results from ignoring our symptoms during the pandemic"
    • Continue to access healthcare for any and all medical issues so that we never allow non-COVID symptoms to go unattended due to the focus on COVID-19.
    • There's a real risk that new or chronic conditions may go undetected or unmanaged if we are worried about visiting our doctors for months on end. Untreated conditions could mean we face serious complications down the line - which could have been avoided.
    • Online consultations present us with a safe avenue to continue to receive care when we need it, no matter the status of the pandemic.
  • Going forward, telemedicine will allow for remote monitoring of all manner of conditions including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. This is made possible by our growing access to wearable health devices that track heart rate, blood (sugar) glucose levels, blood pressure, and more, and send that data to your doctor, also flagging any out-of-range readings for immediate attention.
  • With so many people experiencing anxiety and depression in response to the pandemic, many mental healthcare providers are providing access to their services through online consultations - a life-line for people who may not be able, or be less likely to reach out, to see a provider face-to-face.
  • Consult with doctors or specialists we may never have met face-to-face, who may be in another region or country, and who may be experts in the field of medicine relevant to our healthcare concerns. Seeing them the normal way would involve very costly time and travel expenses incurred.
  • Maintain the privacy you expect from your doctors' consultations: Privacy is key to any interaction with one's doctor. Platforms such as Discovery Connected Care that provide you access to online doctor consultations, maintain a high level of confidentiality when it comes to both the consultation and to patients' records recorded electronically after the meeting.

    What to do before, during and after: Find out how to prepare for your next online consultation with your doctor.

  • Extend access to healthcare to people in under-resourced, remote or dangerous settings allowing doctors who work in those areas to consult with patients located there, and access support from colleagues and specialists located anywhere in the world. It's no surprise that Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans Frontieres has, been using telemedicine for years to allow their medical teams to work in zones affected by wars or natural disasters while also being able to digitally consult with a global network of experts when they are confronted with cases that go beyond their immediate capacities.

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