Telemedicine is a healthcare delivery model established over 40 years ago, aiming to improve a patient’s health by enabling two-way, real-time communication between a patient and a healthcare practitioner at a distant site. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mandatory social distancing and the lack of effective treatments has made Telemedicine the safest interactive system between patients, both infected and uninfected, and clinicians.
Medgate is the leading international provider of Telemedicine, with operations in Switzerland, the Middle East, and the Philippines. It offers high-quality, convenient, and confidential medical consultations over the phone. We interviewed Stavros Athanasiou, the President of Medgate Philippines, to learn more about the company and its services. Here are a few excerpts of the interview:
Q. What factors are contributing to telemedicine surge?
Due to the pandemic, people fear going to medical facilities to have their medical consultation face-to-face because they might be exposed to the virus. This has consolidated the fact that Telemedicine plays a significant role where having medical consultation remotely is an alternative to a face-to-face consultation for non-emergency cases. For the patient, it is more convenient and cost-efficient. Medgate was one of only two companies that passed the rigorous accreditation by the Philippine Department of Health (DoH) and National Privacy Commission (NPC) to deliver teleconsultation services to Filipinos during the period of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. During this time, Medgate had a 170% increase in calls, and it continues to handle a high number of calls as part of the new normal.
Q. What are some examples of conditions that can be treated in a virtual visit?
It must be pointed out that Telemedicine does not replace face-to-face consultations for emergent or complex medical conditions. If physical intervention is required to stop bleeding or fix a broken bone, then Telemedicine is not appropriate. Telemedicine can only help patients if the medical condition is appropriate for a teleconsultation. Typical conditions that Medgate can treat include upper respiratory tract infections, systemic viral infections, benign proxysisimal vertigo, GERD, etc.
Q. How will Telemedicine change healthcare in the future?
Telemedicine services are transforming healthcare by increasing access to more doctors, responding to patient concerns, lowering healthcare costs, and giving more accessible choices for diagnosis and treatment. Telemedicine is also helping doctors in becoming more effective with their time and regular monitoring of their patients.
Q. How can digital health technologies be implemented to enable health systems to enhance universal access in resource-limited settings?
Telemedicine is more accessible now than it was a few years ago, but there is always room to improve. Areas that are either geographically challenged or have insufficient access to the internet are those that we will need to help the most. Of course, better infrastructure and connectivity will be one of the biggest contributors to the growing success of Telemedicine – especially in more remote or far-flung areas.
Our services focus on 24/7 teleconsultations for any non-life-threatening and non-emergency health concerns. Especially in today’s digital age, we ensure having multiple touchpoints for patients to conveniently call our doctors anytime and anywhere – be it over the phone, social media, our website, and our upcoming mobile app. We are set to launch our mobile app this year. Knowing how much digital preference and usage has risen over the past year, our team is eager to roll out our health and wellness app. This will also give us additional touchpoints for patients to reach us more seamlessly.
Q. What obstacles are there to greater/better use of technology in healthcare?
The future of Telemedicine is bright, and being able to diagnose and treat more conditions is one of our key goals. As technology becomes more advanced and more healthcare professionals take to Telemedicine, diagnosing illnesses such as COVID-19 is a definite possibility. But for now, our main goal is more on providing another avenue of healthcare for more Filipinos to access quality medical care while at the same time offloading hospitals and other healthcare facilities from non-urgent, non-emergency cases so that they can focus on patients that need physical care.
Medgate has begun using Artificial Intelligence and will be the next big step after smartphone technology. We diagnose and treat our cases based on statistically-based clinical guidelines driven by artificial intelligence engines to help our doctors. Taking data from over 11 million consultations, we employ AI and machine learning to help our doctors determine the best course of action for our patients. Other uses of AI in Telemedicine are becoming more common as well, from chatbots, patient screening, healthcare mobilization, among other ways. With AI being more common among both private and public healthcare providers, we can expect more innovation in the coming years.
Q. How are you empowering customers to take an active role in managing their own health?
We make a difference by working together as a team of providers, patients, and doctors to improve the quality of each patient’s life, motivate one another, and empower our patients through constant education, clinical reminders, and guidance from best practices and team efforts to make our patients’ journeys easier and to help them achieve their health goals and improve their quality of life. With our new mobile application, users will be able to track their medical history, allergies, medications, and menstrual cycle. They will also be able to get weekly bulletins on health and wellness.
Q. How are you using patient healthcare data as a competitive advantage?
Medgate employs statistically-based clinical guidelines based on its over 11 million teleconsultations, 69 billion data points, 110 million emails and chats, 28 million patients, 6 million hours of recordings, and 28 million treatments and prescriptions. These guidelines allow a General Practitioner to treat a dermatological case, or an Internist to treat a pediatric case, etc. Medgate does not rely solely on the knowledge of an individual doctor. Instead, our doctors are able to lean on the body of work that our entire global organization generates, so our doctors can confidently diagnose and treat our patients. Medgate has not been found to be medically liable for any delivered teleconsultation over the past 20 years.
Q. Please tell us about your tele-treatment program.
Medgate’s tele-treatment program provides non-emergency and non-life-threatening treatment to eligible patients. Medgate’s tele-treatment includes having access to licensed Filipino nurses and doctors, international guidelines and protocols followed by our specialist doctors, triage conducted by Medgate nurses, and general referrals to customer clinics and affiliate networks. Medgate also provides laboratory requests and interpretation, e-prescriptions, and certificates of medical teleconsultation right after the patient’s consultation. We provide multiple touchpoints to our patients such as landline, mobile, social media networks to provide 24/7 access to patients.
Meet the President
Stavros Athanasiou is the President of Medgate Philippines, a telemedicine company that aims to provide accessible healthcare to millions of Filipinos. Concurrently, Stavros is also the Chief Financial Officer and Corporate Secretary for TMIP Holdings Pty Limited, a holding company for telemedicine operations located in Asia. Since his appointment in 2015, he has overseen the setup and deployment of the regional accounting systems and reporting frameworks. Stavros earned his Master of Accounting at the University of Technology Sydney and a Master of Taxation through the University of New South Wales.