Consultations now a breeze for patients and doctors
oDoc, a Sri Lankan startup linking patients with doctors on-demand, emerged winners in the Telemedicine category at the recently concluded Commonwealth Digital Health Awards. Developed over 12 months, the award-winning platform provides a “360 degree solution” for both patients and doctors – providing pre-consultation notes on an electronic health record, video consultations, and a valid prescription sent to your smartphone. This saves users from the hassle of waiting rooms and traffic jams with the advantages of better diagnoses and treatment augmented by modern technology.
The Commonwealth Digital Health Conference and Awards ceremony, held at the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, marked the launch of the Commonwealth Digital Health Initiative followed by the adoption of the Commonwealth policy brief on ‘Digital Systems for One Health’. The highlight of the conference was the digital health mall, which showcased 35 shortlisted digital health innovations from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Malta, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Norway and South Africa.
Speaking after the awards ceremony, Heshan Fernando, founder and CEO of oDoc said “We put medical consultation and e-prescriptions into the palm of your hands and we are doing this by combining mobile technology and artificial intelligence with the best clinical expertise.” Fernando highlighted pediatric and dermatological consultations as popular use cases. He also pointed to the option for anonymous consultations through oDoc being particularly useful for those seeking sexual and mental health consultations.
Explaining oDoc further, Fernando stated “You can basically book appointments in seconds and see a doctor fully registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council whenever you want, wherever you are, through just three taps of your Smartphone. Once you request your consultation, the doctor will then video call you, assess your condition and provide you with a valid prescription with the doctor’s seal, right to your phone. All within a matter of 10 minutes. The showing of lab reports and follow-up visits could take place the same way. Studies have shown nearly 75 per cent of all regular doctor visits could be handled effectively through video just like this.”
Similar services have seen wide-scale adoption internationally. HealthTap based out of Palo Alto, California has over 100,000 doctors offering their services on its platform. Babylon Health, claims 1 in 100 citizens of the UK as users and recently partnered with the NHS. The founders of oDoc are convinced that with the current level of smartphone and internet penetration in Asia, the time is ripe for the convenience of telemedicine to improve the lives of millions in Sri Lanka and the region.
Doctors also stand to see added convenience. All of Sri Lanka now becomes accessible to medical practitioners through oDoc beyond the usual 10 to 25km radius from where they could see patients in the past. The platform also gives doctors a better work-life balance where working from home more often becomes a viable option. For those opting to go fully digital, a “virtual practice” would help avoid the hassle and overheads involved in running a private clinic.
Dr. Janaka Wickramasinghe, who is a practicing doctor and a founder of oDoc explains, “The benefits of this system don’t end with just convenience. We built an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) platform from the ground up just to assist these video consultations. This allows a doctor to document a consultation digitally rather than through written notes. Doctors hadn’t already moved on to doing this because it invariably takes longer than writing something on paper. So, what we did was approach this as a design problem, not a medical or IT problem and designed something which is super-fast and easy, where anyone can use it, without needing much IT knowledge. Through features like this, oDoc helps doctors provide better-informed more holistic healthcare to their patients.”
oDoc have to-date signed on 10 companies including MAS Active, Union Assurance, Expolanka, Hela, Akbar Brothers, and Brandix, and will have a total of 20,000 users on their cards. The platform together with its fast adoption rate has also drawn the attention of investors, with the startup raising US$ 1 million in funding – Sri Lanka’s largest seed round investment – from Ajit Gunawardena, Brandix and LOLC.
The nascent Sri Lankan startup ecosystem is on the path to gain a boost if startups like oDoc gain traction and can scale operations.