Discovery makes medical mobile
SA’s largest private medical scheme, Discovery Health, has launched an iPad application for doctors aimed at streamlining medical care By Craig Wilson.
Discovery Health has launched an iPad application called HealthID that it claims will ease the burden of paperwork and administration on SA doctors, making it easier for the medical aid administrator to process claims in real time while maintaining patient confidentiality.
Discovery Health SA CEO Jonathan Broomberg says the app is aimed at doctors and specialists. He says ability to make claims and request payment for prescribed medication in real time is saving two to three days in processing time. Doctors can also receive laboratory reports via the app.
HealthID has been in development since 2010. Trials of an early version with 10 doctors began in March 2011, with a second version rolled out to 100 doctors in August. The latest version was launched last week.
“There’s a perception that health care is in trouble and the system is falling apart. We believe the reality of the private health-care system is very different to that,” says Broomberg. “When targeted interventions have been made, for example with the electronic ordering of pathology, there’ve been huge gains in efficiency. But when government has tried large-scale shifts it’s been ineffective and costly.”
Discovery Health provides cover to over 2,5m people in SA. Broomberg estimates that 11% of SA’s total health funding flows through it. He says this figure rises to as much as 33% in the private sector.
“We wanted to leverage this influence and see what we could do to involve the developments we’re seeing in technology.”
Broomberg says there are more than 7 000 health care-specific applications in the Apple App Store and that a recent study found that 60% of physicians in the US use medical apps on a daily basis and that 70% said they expect to employ a tablet computer in their practice by 2013.
HealthID allows doctors to view electronic health records, prescribe medicine and produce a script, look at a patient’s benefit details and cover, and even make electronic referrals to other doctors or specialists.
According to Broomberg, doctors surveyed wanted an app that could reduce their administrative burden while providing accurate information and adhering to risk-mitigation requirements around issues of consent and confidentiality.
Patients must consent to their information being accessed via the app with each doctor or specialist they visit. The patient is presented with two pages of terms and conditions and must agree to these as well as supply their signature on the iPad. This information is then sent to Discovery and the member receives a confirmation alert. If a patient is referred, they have to sign consent again.
Aside from allowing doctors to view extensive patient records and a patient’s history of chronic or other medication, the app also shows health-care professionals what plan a patient is on.
Using the app, a doctor can search for all medicines in SA, including generic alternatives. A script can be created and e-mailed to a participating pharmacy, to reception for printing, or to Discovery’s delivery company, MedXpress. While MedXpress only applies to chronic medication for now, Broomberg says it will soon support general medication, too.
The company is also launching a service called “Emergency HealthID”, where it will supply Discovery members with stickers with QR codes that can be read by an application for paramedics and other emergency services. Scanning the QR — which can be stuck on a car or on a phone or on a lunchbox — will bring up emergency contact details as well as patient allergies and details about any chronic medication they may be on.
Broomberg says Discovery is working with Samsung to bring the app to the Korean electronics manufacturer’s Galaxy Tab in coming months. “We would ultimately like to be completely vendor neutral,” says Broomberg. “There are also plans for a Web-based solution. We went with the iPad first because a lot of doctors have them and the interface is user friendly.”
Doctors requiring an iPad can get one through Discovery and pay it off, interest-free, over 24 months. Discovery has also signed a deal with Vodacom, where all 3G data costs associated with HealthID are billed to Discovery Health.
In order to incentivise doctors to use the app, Discovery is offering R15 extra per consultation if a doctor uses the app for 50% of their Discovery patients and submits 75% of chronic illness benefit claims using it.
In September, Discovery will roll out tablet and smartphone apps for its customers that will allow them to view their own records and information.
Since its launch a week ago, Broomberg says the app has been downloaded a thousand times. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media