Virtual mobile doctors show the way

Dubai: It’s 11pm and the parents of a restless infant boy discover he is running a high temperature. They panic and rush him to the nearest hospital. The outpatient department admits him to Emergency, administers IV fluid and puts him on an antibiotic. An X-ray is done and his blood taken for analysis. The family ends up spending the night in hospital as they wait for the test results. It is only by the next afternoon that the diagnosis – a viral infection – is confirmed and the child is discharged. The overnight episode sets the parents back by Dh2,000.

In a similar situation, another household reacts differently. As the child’s fever rises, the parents phone a mobile doctor. The physician assesses the case, suggests over-the-counter medication to lower the temperature and guides them on what they need to do. The doctor follows up every hour until the temperature drops. The diagnosis is the same viral infection and it passes after a couple of days. The child has not been given any antibiotics or subjected to any tests. And the cost incurred: Dh36 for a monthly subscription of the mobile doctor service.

As Mobile Doctors 24/7, a Dubai-based medical and wellness concierge service which is part of the KBBO Group, highlights the two contrasting cases with claims to impact over 145,000 lives, it is an indication that telemedicine has come of age in the emirate.

In March, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) rolled out a RoboDoc project, under which specialists from Rashid Hospital set a precedent by communicating with a team of doctors at Hatta Hospital to provide not just consultation but also respiratory management for a 40-year-old patient.

First for the region

DHA, which is the first government health organisation in the region to implement telehealth, has placed RoboDocs not only in Hatta Hospital’s emergency department but also its 24-hour primary healthcare centres at Al Barsha and Nad Al Hammar, all of which are linked to Rashid Hospital’s Trauma Centre. Just this Sunday, DHA also launched a smart mobile consultation booth at the Roads and Transport Authority headquarters to allow employees to get medical check-ups done and communicate with a specialist doctor by phone for consultation.

Dr Moin Fikree, medical director of the Trauma Centre and lead for DHA’s Telemedicine initiative, said, “Telemedicine ensures immediate access to specialised consultation, which is particularly helpful in emergency situations. It saves travel and processing time at the receiving healthcare facility and it brings down the cost of healthcare tremendously.”

Dr Bassam Mahboub, head of the Respiratory Department at Rashid Hospital, said, “We are embarking on a journey to incorporate future technology without compromising on patient care.”

When XPRESS visited the Dubai Health Care City call centre of Mobile Doctors 24/7 on Monday, four of its 19 physicians were on the phone, providing consultations to patients who they could see on their computer screens.

Immediate access

Ahmed Awada, co-founder and chief technology officer of Mobile Doctors 24/7, said, “The Mobile Doctors 24-7 service allows subscribers – whether at home, work, on a business trip or on vacation – to have immediate access to a licensed, western-trained doctor or wellness expert at any time, 365 days a year without the need to make an appointment or wait in an emergency room queue. Seventy per cent of the calls we get are managed over the phone.

“Only over-the-counter medications are given and referrals are provided if further treatment is required. Doctor visits or collection of lab test samples can also be arranged. Our doctors practise evidence-based medicine adhering to the guidelines of Britain’s National Health Service/ National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.”

Dr Jihada Cassim, a GP at Mobile Doctors 24/7, said, “Most of the calls we get are for complaints like fever, upper respiratory problems like common cold, digestive and musculoskeletal issues.”

The way the mobile service works is simple. Awada said, “Our premium service members who have registered with us can call in at any time either on our toll free number (80063247) or through our app (Mobile Doctors 24/7). They can make voice, video calls or chat live. Once our agents verify their credentials, they are connected to our full-time family medicine specialists and wellness experts.”

Besides virtual services by the medical and wellness call centres, Mobile Doctors 24/7 also provides face-to-face services that include corporate on-site clinics and a home service which is a structured ‘Johns Hopkins Hospital at Home’ programme that comes at an extra cost.

Soon, DHA will also extend its Dubai RoboDoc initiative to home-care patients with visiting healthcare professionals dialing in for teleconsultations. RoboDocs will also be stationed in ICUs and NICUs.

DHA’s smart consultation booths will also be introduced in Dewa, Dubai Municipality and Dubai Land Department in the coming days.

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