Discovery CEO Adrian Gore. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

Discovery, the country’s largest health insurance provider and telecoms giant Vodacom have teamed up to offer the public free, virtual consultations with doctors to help diagnose and treat those exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.

Businesses across the country have come up with a range initiatives from landlords giving tenants a break on rental payments to banks agreeing to freeze loan repayments for low-income clients, complementing government efforts to contain the highly contagious Covid-19 and limit its negative effect on the economy. 

“We have to up the testing regime, that’s critical. But I think so far it’s been a very good lockdown. We will have to see how things play out in terms of infection rates as people start to get ill,” said Discovery CEO Adrian Gore. 

The announcement of the initiative comes two days after President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up the fight against the virus that threatens to overwhelm the country’s weak healthcare infrastructure, saying he will deploy 10,000-strong force of field workers to screen people for symptoms and introduce mobile tech to trace contacts of those found positive

“The main purpose is to get doctor consultations to every single South African for Covid-19. That is the vision. So for people that have the symptoms, regardless of whether they have access to a doctor or not, this gives them the ability to receive a free, virtual, and easily accessible consultation,” Gore said.  

The cost of the consultation will be funded by Discovery and Vodacom. The data used during the consultation, if individuals use the Vodacom network to do so, will also be free.

“Our partnership with Discovery can go a long way in alleviating any increased pressure on healthcare practitioners, while, at the same time, empowering citizens by connecting them to doctors,” said Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub.

The public can go on to Discovery’s or Vodacom’s website, as well as use the Discovery app, to begin self-screening. Vodacom also expects to make the service available shortly via the USSD of *111#.

Patients will be asked a series of easy questions to ascertain what type of symptoms they have. Should these match the criteria for the coronavirus they will be scheduled for a virtual consultation. Based on the diagnosis from that process, they may then be directed to a testing centre.

The other benefit of the virtual consultation regime is that it will prevent health workers from multiple exposure to the virus and prevent overcrowding at clinics and doctors’ rooms, said Gore.  

At the moment, the portal has 5,200 doctors connected but Gore expects this to grow quickly. The founder of Discovery says his organisation is ready and prepared for what is likely to come as infection rates begin to climb.

thompsonw@businesslive.co.za

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