We all know that improving access to health care is an important stepping stone on our often-repeated goal of providing healthcare to all in South Africa. It is something I have heard again and again in meetings with the public and private sector and also in the portfolio committee meetings I attend.
Imagine my surprise, then, to see the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) issuing a public warning against accessing doctors’ expertise telephonically and via a mobile application.
I quote from the article in the Times:
“Through Hello Doctor – majority owned by Metropolitan Health – the public can interact with qualified doctors for medical assistance at a fee. There are already 600 000 registered users across all digital platforms where medical advice and health content are posted. The MTN Group has recently formed a partnership with the company. Dr Michael Mol, executive director of Hello Doctor and presenter of the Hello Doctor television show, said mobile phones offered an obvious and affordable way to share relevant and effective health information and that services like Hello Doctor had significant value to add. But the council’s CEO and registrar, Dr Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba, said the initiative might be in breach of the council’s ethical rules and regulations”.
So change the archaic rules to meet the greater public need!
It appears that the engagement that Hello Doctor has had with the HPCSA over the past two years has not been taken into account. Mobile health provides access to all, at affordable rates with positive health outcomes and is practiced in most countries. So why would anyone want to stop that? This kind of decision means that South Africa falls further behind world trends.
As Michael Mol said in the Times article: Hello Doctor does not practise any form of telemedicine which contravenes HPCSA regulations; “we are offering health information and health promotion services designed to enable consumers to make informed decisions about their health – no diagnosis or treatment decisions are made via the Hello Doctor platform.” He added that these services are “virtually identical to those which have been offered freely and without redress from the HPCSA by several companies in South Africa for many years”.
I honestly believe that we need creative and new proactive ways to meet the needs of our people. You can’t solve the problems you face by using the same paradigm that created them. We can’t continue thinking the same way and expect different outcomes… it just will not happen.
We have to change HPCSA’s rules to meet current realities and what citizens require. The Council is not there only to protect providers’ income and old thinking.
So, what’s the next step? What do you think of this development?