Telehealth business grows 450% in April due to pandemic

Published July 21, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Emmie V. Abadilla

The number of contactless consultations at KonsultaMD, a 24/7 subscription-based telehealth service, surged  450 percent  this April as Filipinos  become more willing to talk to doctors over the phone or via video calls.

At last, telehealth is gaining ground in the Philippines as people avoid visiting hospitals and clinics due to risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

“Telehealth has been in the Philippines for many years but people are reluctant to try it because it is not something  they are used to,” Glenn Estrella, Operating Advisor for KonsultaMD, pointed out.

Not surprisingly, online conversations regarding telehealth and online medication consultations reached its peak during the start of the enhanced community quarantine in March.

And they have been steadily talked about since then, confirmed advertising firm AdSpark’s recent white paper, Digital:  The Filipinos Flag of Freedom.

“Filipinos need healthcare.  Just because health clinics and hospitals are predominantly used for testing and treating COVID-19 patients, doesn’t mean the attention needed for non-COVID health concerns just disappeared,” according to the AdSpark study.

Now, Filipino healthcare workers are shifting from very traditional face-to-face practice, such as consulting and diagnosing,  to using digital channels.

“Only recently did Filipinos realize that consultation over the phone or via mobile app is convenient, easy, affordable and secure,” stressed KonsultaMD Advisor Estrella.

KonsultaMD is operated by Global Telehealth, Inc., a joint venture of 917Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom Inc., and Mexico’s Salud Interactiva. 

Adspark is also a portfolio company under 917Ventures, the largest corporate incubator in the Philippines.

KonsultaMD is composed of licensed Filipino doctors who give advice on primary care, first-aid, health and wellness, nutrition, mental health, and even provide prescriptions and interpretation of lab results. 

These services are delivered via calls to the hotline – 78880 via Globe/TM mobile phone or (02) 77988000 via landline or through the KonsultaMD mobile app which allows video consultation.

The Department of Health (DOH) endorsed the contactless approach to health services to relieve hospitals of non-critical cases and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Earlier, the DOH tapped KonsultaMD and other telehealth providers to help augment the agency’s hotlines for a limited time by providing free telemedicine advice to individuals who need non-emergency medical assistance. 

A total of thirty doctors who volunteered in the DOH Healthcare Warrior Program also lent their services to KonsultaMD last month.

Furthermore, DOH, together with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) released a joint memorandum circular recognizing the use of telemedicine in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

They encouraged traditional healthcare providers to adopt the practice in situations such as the current national emergency where quarantine protocols are in place.