Ohealth is like hospital in your hand — Dr Farombi

The world is gradually accepting the challenge and adapting to various safety measures occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. This, however, is making access to health professionals more difficult and expensive. In this report by Sade Oguntola, Dr Temitope Farombi, a consultant neurologist and initiator of a new health digital app, Ohealth, says talking to a doctor is just a click away, for a token.

OHealth is a new app that has just been developed to help Nigerians improve their health status. What is this app all about?

The digital app is called Ohealth for users and Odoctor for physicians to be able to consult anybody in the world from their phones. The digital app is to ensure that we can bridge the gap between doctors and patients. Currently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) puts the patient-doctor ratio in Nigeria at about one doctor to 4,000 patients. It is going to get worse because a lot of doctors are moving to greener pastures, leaving patients who can’t afford much behind.

The gap will continue to widen. So, the idea is for us to be able to bridge that gap and ensure that Nigerian patients even for a little amount can still consult a doctor anywhere in the world and wherever they are.

COVID-19 has actually made us see what hitherto we thought was impossible as possible. The pandemic had actually made a lot of people move from physical contact to virtual contact.  Right now, people buy things online from supermarkets through their phones and it is delivered to them. They attend virtual meetings and so on.   Also, healthcare delivery is moving with the changing times. Certainly, things are not going to go back to what they used to be before COVID-19.  So, Ohealth is merely exploring this newfound way of communicating and reaching out to people to actually bridge that physical contact between patients and doctors.

A lot of people duing this COVID-19 pandemic were scared to come to the hospital. They were scared because of the stigma around COVID-19.  Some doctors even till now don’t want patients to stay very close to them.

 

How does one tap into this digital app and what do Nigerians stand to gain from doing so?

Through this digital app, you can communicate with doctors. Currently, we have about 95 million people using the internet in Nigeria. That means a lot of people have access to smartphones. For that reason, we can easily capture those who have access to smart-phones. Later, this can trickle down to those who don’t have.

The app, Ohealth, is currently on Google Play Store. Once you download the app, you will register and fund the wallet that comes with the app to be able to access the service. To download it and register it is completely free. It is mass-friendly, since it is also possible to text message a specialist or consultant. It is just N40 per SMS.

Perhaps you want to call them, it is only N100 per minute and if you really want to see the doctor you are chatting with or they want to see you or there is something you want to show them or they want to really make sure that you demonstrate what they are thinking of then you do a video call at N300 per minute.

So, we’ve made it to be pocket-friendly so that everybody can have access to it. The good news is that those who don’t have smartphones or lack the know-how can benefit from those who have one. It is not restricted to one person; one person can use it to benefit even the whole community.

Beyond that, in the remote parts of the country where there are not enough doctors, you can then do Tele-health and Tele-consultations with this app. So, the government can actually adopt it to be able to reach a lot of their citizens.

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Access to emergency care or emergency services is a big challenge in Nigeria.  Can this app help to ensure that this gap is also bridged?

Yes, the app certainly can help achieve that in the sense that we have specialists doctors online that they can easily consult. They can dial and get to talk to a doctor on what they could do in cases of emergency.

Let’s say someone is bleeding profusely, you call a doctor and he can tell you how to tourniquet the leg to stop the bleeding before coming to the hospital, or in a scene of the accident, how to properly position patients involved in an accident. Not carrying patients at the scene of accident properly can further damage things in their body that hitherto, if you had carried them better, would have been preserved.

If you use this even in an emergency setting, the doctor will be able to instruct you on what to do en-route the hospital to mitigate further damage or any uneventful outcome. And also at that point, the doctor can only do a pre-assessment. There are some clinical conditions that require physical examinations. And so at that point, the doctor can at least en-route the hospital tell what the patient is going through. So, it’s usefulness in emergencies also cannot be overemphasized. However, it has its limitations. There must be very good internet connectivity and data.

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Nigeria has one of the highest infant mortality rate in the world. Can this app help to lower it?

Malaria and infections, including diarrheal diseases, are common diseases that affect infants. On the app, we have many specialist doctors, including paediatricians.  So, if you communicate with the paediatrician on the app, he can actually prescribe for or treat the patient. Let’s assume that an infant has diarrhoea and the mum does not know what to do at that point in time, the paediatrician can actually tell her what to do.

What kills in diarrheal diseases is dehydration. The paediatrician can tutor the mother on how to prepare oral rehydration solution for the child. Also, if it is malaria or other infections, the paediatrician will know and be able to tell if it is a case that they must bring to the hospital immediately.

Also, we have obstetrics and gynaecologists on the app. Even in labour, where the woman is being attended to by a traditional birth attendant or at a religious maternity home, the attending birth attendant can actually do a video consultation with an obstetrician. The specialist through this means can actually evaluate the patient at that point and counsel if there is the need to quickly bring this patient to the hospital to mitigate delay and also complications.

 

Illnesses don’t notify people when they will start. So, assuming an individual needs medical attention at 12 midnight, will the app be useful?

It renders a 24-hour service. However, let’s assume that you cannot have access immediately to any doctor at that point, the customer service runs a  24-hour shift and will quickly call doctors that are on the app to please help to assist at that point. The app is a work in progress, and certainly, other services will still be imputed into it to increase services individuals can assess through it.

Currently, it covers all specialities in medicine, including all surgery and dentistry. So, it is like hospital in your hand. On the app, when the doctor finishes seeing you, drugs can be prescribed for you on the app. This is e-prescription.

You can be asked to undergo tests. The results of these tests can be shown to the doctor on the app. There are features on the app to upload the results of tests that are done. So, it is like having a hospital in your palm.

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