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The Sa Medical Association (Sama) has entered the fray and denounced a newly launched initiative that uses telephone consultations to diagnose patients, comparing it to “blind-dating”.
Sama chairman Dr Norman Mabasa said he was concerned about telemedicine initiatives, which were in breach of patient-doctor relationship and were also not what they purported to be.
He was reacting to the recently launched telemedicine service, Hello Doctor.
This week the new service, which involves patients either calling a doctor by phone or chatting to one online for a diagnosis, suspended its services following criticism by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
The council distanced itself from the service, saying it was unethical and in breach of the doctor-patient relationship.
It also denounced similar initiatives, such as the one proposed by MTN and Sanlam that would offer a mobile helpline staffed by nurses.
The HPCSA has referred these initiatives to its undesirable business practice committee for consideration.
Mabasa said Sama did not support any initiative that discouraged face-to-face consultation between patient and doctor.
He said that if the service was allowed to be practised in South Africa, it would be “disastrous”.
“It is no different from blind-dating. How sure are you whether you are getting the real doctor or not?
The founder of Hello Doctor, Craig Townsend, said the company had since “withheld” its consultation services to engage more with HPCSA.
He said the service was not trying to replace doctors, but was trying to improve clinical quality and convenience for patients.
“The service is using a network of pharmacies that act as an extension of doctor service.
“When a patient collects his or her medication, a qualified physician at the pharmacy will be able to examine that patient, checking things like blood pressure to ensure that the medication will not put the patient in a compromising condition.”
MTN spokeswoman Bridget Bhengu said its Care Connect Service, run in partnership with Sanlam, would not replace doctor consultations but would be used as a complementary service to the health-care system. - Cape Argus