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Doctors Seek to Improve Health Care Through Online Second Opinions

  Nov 6, 2014

When one is diagnosed with a serious illnesses, one is forced to make choices such as whether to undertake prescribed treatment or to see a specialist. Sometimes someone may want to confirm a diagnosis or prescribed treatment, or find out more on options available and their risks.

For the poor and people in rural areas, limited access to high quality health care service providers or specialists makes such decisions harder to make.

Health-E-net has developed a platform to provide patients with access to high-quality medical second opinions on diagnosis or treatment at one’s convenient location.

Second opinions involve a non-treating physician being asked to comment on the diagnosis or treatment plan for a given patient’s case. They are sought universally in healthcare as part of proactive decision making in managing one’s health.

Health-E-net is a social enterprise that connects poor and rural patients with an appropriate, highly qualified specialist doctor to help one understand an illness and the choices one faces. It comprises of a network of volunteer doctors who review patient data and provide second opinions. It also helps patients navigate the healthcare system and supports them in their journey towards regaining their health.

Health-E-net CEO Pratap Kumar, who is also the director for the Centre for Innovation, Research and Advisory Services at the Strathmore Business School, pioneered the idea of offering low cost remote medical second opinions in Kenya.

He was driven by the need to change the way Kenyans access specialist healthcare by helping people understand their choices, ask the right questions, and empowering them to seek the best care possible starting with a simple second opinion.

“We charge affluent patients for a second opinion, which allows us to subsidise the services to patients who normally could not afford a consultation with a specialist doctor for financial, geographic or other reasons,” says Dr Kumar.

The doctors, many world-renowned experts in their fields, volunteer their time to go over medical records and give a review. The doctors, he says, are mainly from the diaspora but are interested in helping develop the healthcare system in the country.

Meghan Bruce, a graduate of Princeton University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says the platform consist of clinics staffed by nurses and clinical officers who are part of the community health infrastructure.

“They help patients collect their medical records, digitise and store their data on an electronic platform; they also connect patients with the appropriate, remote medical specialists, mediate the consultation and counsel patients on future steps,” she says.

Data from patients is stored in the country of origin, with clear and strict guidelines for privacy and security.

“We create a detailed case narrative on our platform and digitise and link the available investigations to the case record. Once this is done the patient is only contacted by phone or email for the next steps such as verifying their case record on our platform, phone consultation with a remote specialist or follow-up counselling,” Dr Kumar says.

“We charge affluent patients Sh3,000 for a consultation. We serve poor patients and rural patients through partnerships with clinics they can access.

“We have trained nurses and clinical officers in AccessAfya’s clinics in slums of Nairobi. Patients therefore directly approach AccessAfya, who could charge patients about Sh200 to cover the time spent by the nurse in mediating the second opinion,” says Cavin Otieno, a doctor who works at the clinics.

Source: Business Daily.

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