Globe Telecom, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Yondu, has formed a joint venture with Salud Interactiva to launch KonsultaMD – a 24/7 health hotline service manned by skilled and licensed Filipino doctors who provide medical assessment and advice, including basic healthcare and permissible medication over the phone. – from press release at Globe website here
“KonsultaMD is our response to the pain points in Philippine healthcare. The growing population puts further pressure to an already-strained healthcare landscape which is suffering from lack of experienced healthcare professionals, under-resourced public hospitals, poor health infrastructure and limited accessibility” said Gil B. Genio, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Operating Officer for Business and International Markets.
Though coming from good intentions, Konsulta MD seems to be a terribly bad idea. Here are the reasons why:
1. You can’t really diagnose a new patient over the phone. A doctor needs to do history taking and physical examination in order to properly assess a patient. A phone consultation only provides the history. Without the non-verbal cues that come with a face to face doctor visit, history taking over the phone also becomes unreliable. For example, if a patient walks into a clinic complaining of severe difficulty of breathing, but is able to move about with ease and talk non-stop for half an hour, then that complaint can be set aside and the doctor may have to probe further on what is really bothering the patient. A doctor on a phone may not be able to verify a patient’s symptoms.
Experienced doctors sometimes do phone consultations but they only do so for long time patients that they are already very familiar with. Those phone consults may serve to explain lab results, reassure patients, or monitor side effects of new medications. However, most doctors won’t diagnose strangers over the phone – and certainly won’t dare prescribe anything.
2. This is Globe phone service we’re talking about here, so Konsulta MD will likely suck. There have been many complaints over Globe’s plethora of services, from landline, to mobile to internet services. Ever tried to contact Globe’s Customer Service Hotline? That is probably the longest hold that your phone will ever experience. There’s not a lot of doctors who will sign up for this and doctors don’t come cheap, so there may not be enough to man the phones.
3. There will be continuity of care issues. How so? There’s no guarantee you’ll talk to the same doctor. Even if you’re able to, that doctor might not even remember who you are and what your medical issues were, since phone conversations with a multitude of strangers don’t really make lasting impressions.
Konsulta MD will most likely keep patients’ records on their files for doctors to access, but nothing beats consulting a doctor who’s already familiar with your case.
4. It might end up wasting the patient’s time. A patient will seek a doctor when he feels he needs to actually see one. Konsulta MD says that it will only do initial assessments, and it can’t replace an actual face to face assessment of a doctor. In other words, the patient is better off going to a doctor’s clinic from the start if he feels something serious is going on. For very minor conditions, a Google search may end up being faster and better. Google will probably also tell you to see a doctor if you need to.
It provides no help if you actually need to see a doctor in the clinic – You expect that a service that admits it can only provide an initial assessment, can actually refer to you to a clinic or hospital if you ever need one. Sadly, you’re on your own. You’re better off with Google or a phone book.
5. The service is worthless in emergencies – for now. If you are planning to call Konsulta MD when you feel you’re having a heart attack – dont! They don’t provide an ambulance service. If you’re in a medical emergency, don’t waste precious minutes in calling Konsulta MD.
6. Don’t expect the Philippines’ cream of the crop doctors to show up here. The best doctors are usually busy. Even if they have time to spare, they will choose to see a patient in person, not diagnose them over the phone. Since this service charges PHP 1/minute of consult; if you deduct Globe’s fees, a doctor will probably be earning only a few cents per minute. Although Konsulta MD’s Chief Medical Officer, Gia Sison, assures that the doctors who will man the phones are “skilled and licensed”, the doctors who will likely work for this service are those that recently passed the board exams looking to make money on the side while thinking of what they want to do with their medical careers.
Expect Konsulta MD to banner specialists and experienced doctors in their marketing. They have a list of doctors here. The question is – will they actually man the phones on a regular and frequent basis, or will they just guest consult on rare occasions?
Another thing that will turn the best doctors away? The terms and conditions specify that the doctors are on their own. If something bad happens (like a lawsuit!), Konsulta MD does not have the doctors back, even if the probable reason why the doctor messed up is because he’s using a phone to diagnose a patient to begin with.
7. Konsulta MD won’t even stand behind its own service. The disclaimer (see here) for this service is so ridiculously extensive that it basically says “Hey patient, we’re not responsible for anything”. If a doctor at a hospital misdiagnoses or mistreats a patient, the patient can sue the doctor and the hospital for services. In Konsulta MD, the patient absolves the company of all liabilities, according to the terms and conditions. Here are some of the legalese gems:
“YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOUR USE OF THE SERVICE IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK, AND THAT YOU ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL RISK ASSOCIATED THEREWITH. GTI PROVIDES KONSULTAMD ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS, WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY WHATSOEVER, WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED.”
“If you choose to use konsultaMD, you must do so at your own risk. Under no circumstance will GTI be liable to you for, and you hereby knowingly and voluntarily release GTI from, any claim relating to any loss or damage that you might directly or indirectly suffer… as a result of your use of konsultaMD”
*GTI stands for Globe Telehealth Inc.
Will you use a service that provides no guarantees, especially if it concerns your health?
8. There are data security risks. You don’t want that episode of genital itchiness of yours to make the rounds of the internet. Although Globe will institute security protocols to secure the privacy of your medical records, according to terms of service, Konsulta MD doesn’t provide any guarantees and you absolve them of all liabilities from data security breaches.
9. The program will not likely cater to the medically underserved. Globe’s rationale for this service is that many Filipinos have no access to medical care. Unfortunately, those same people may not have access to phones and adequate telecommunications services. However, I envision this service to be a hit with hypochondriacs everywhere.
Mr. Genio of Globe added “We envision the health hotline to provide easy access to medical advice and more efficient health care because it costs significantly less to talk to a doctor than a personal visit”.
Mr. Genio is probably wrong about the “more efficient health care” part. The thing that Konsulta MD will be efficient at is earning additional revenues for Globe and Salud Interactiva. The healthcare business is still a business after all.
– Finance, M.D.