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HUTCH – oDoc partnership revolutionizes Sri Lankan telemedicine

HUTCH – oDoc partnership revolutionizes Sri Lankan telemedicine

HUTCH, Sri Lanka’s preferred choice for mobile broadband services has partnered with the leading telemedicine service provider oDocbringing24/7 online video GP consultation services directly to the mobile of every Hutch subscriber within three minutes of booking. oDoc real-time virtual consultations minimize the need to physically be present at hospitals/clinics to get medical advice reducing the risk of catching COVID thereby assisting in the country’s pandemic prevention measures.

With Hutch-oDoc service, customers will be protected during the pandemic from unnecessary exposure to infections by reducing time spent at hospitals and clinics. Particularly indispensable for patients or caretakers of patients in the vulnerable populations: senior or immunocompromised who may not feel comfortable visiting hospitals/clinics. Customers will no longer need to waste time travelling or inside waiting rooms for physician channeling and they do not need to rush to hospitals with their infants on minor ailments.

Customers living in remote areas with limited access to medical services can also make use of this service to access quality healthcare from Colombo whilst eliminating their medical related travel costs to Colombo.

The milestone partnership brings oDoc’s top quality virtual video and audio GP consultation services at a very affordable subscription rate of only Rs. 99+taxes per month. Through this service, Customers can avail of unlimited medical consultations at any time of the day from the comfort of their homes. Hutch subscriber can subscribe to this service via dialing *6363#.

Customers that prefer over the phone consultations may also request a callback using the *6363# USSD code. Once requested, a GP will call the user within just three minutes.

oDoc physicians are authorized to issue over the phone prescriptions after detailed online medical consultations of the customer. In a matter of few minutes, customers can access over 600 doctors from the new Hutch-oDoc service.

Having launched the island-wide telemedicine service together with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA), oDoc’s mission is to uplift national healthcare. oDoc’s partnership with HUTCH enables it to provide medical services to a wider section of society by leveraging HUTCH’s mass subscriber-base that is continuously offered with latest high quality value added services.

Commenting on the new partnership, HUTCH CEO, Thirukumar Nadarasa said: “HUTCH is a socially responsible company that addresses the concerns of the public. Our fullest support is given to such initiatives of taking affordable virtual healthcare to all homes across the nation. Telemedicine has evolved to be a mainstay in healthcare and has become even more critical in the face of COVID19. We at HUTCH are proud to partner with oDoc, a leading telemedicine service provider, to avail easy access healthcare to our loyal subscribers.”

CEO at oDoc Heshan Fernando said: “At oDoc, we focus on providing everyone a means to prioritize their health. With over 300,000 oDoc users and 3500 app downloads per month, we are the pioneers in Sri Lanka’s telemedicine at present. The American Medical Association has confirmed that up to 75% of all physician visits can be handled via video calls, and we are pleased that we can leverage this latest trend. Over 450 doctors who specialize in 50 different areas have joined us in this groundbreaking cause. Having such a service at patients’ disposal frees them of their hassle of frequent hospital visits and bringing huge relief to them.”

Photo Caption: From left oDoc Head of New Business Development and Sales Nabeel Milhan, Co-Founder & CTO Keith De Alwis, Co-Founder & CEO Heshan Fernando and HUTCH General Manager Marketing Hamdhy Hassen, AGM Partnerships & Alliances Firaz Markar

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Bye bye, office space: The companies committing to WFH

Bye bye, office space: The companies committing to WFH

By Uwin Lugoda

During the last few months, the Covid-19 pandemic forced many Sri Lankan companies to adapt to the new norm of working from home (WFH). However, with the end of the curfew, many companies have moved or are moving back into their office spaces. Interestingly though, there are a few companies that adapted well to the sudden disruption and the enforced WFH experience; so much so that they have decided to give up their office spaces altogether, some temporarily and some even permanently.

Most of these companies have adopted different strategies to implement WFH and remote working policies, all of which eliminate the need for a permanent office space.

Goodbye office for good

oDoc, a local healthcare app that gives people access to doctors for video and audio consultations over the phone, is one company that has integrated their WFH policy permanently into their framework. The tech company has now decided to transition from full WFH to a 4:1 strategy, where they all only have to meet once a week.

“We decided to fully go with WFH as our team was happier and safer working from home, there was no loss in productivity, and there was a cost reduction,” said oDoc Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Heshan Fernando.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Fernando explained that they decided to move to a 4:1 strategy mainly due to the team missing the social aspect of coming into the office, and also to break the monotony of working from home. He also stated that when it comes to bringing in new team members, assimilating them to the company culture is done more efficiently in person, and some meetings too are better held face to face.

“As a small team, we have the luxury of being agile and plan on further experimenting to settle on what works best for us.”

The company first adopted a WFH strategy shortly after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and will be transitioning to the 4:1 strategy from 1 July onwards.

Fernando stated that one of the biggest benefits of this WFH strategy is that it saves time, which is an important resource for the company, as a result of the lack of a commute. He explained that this freed up more time for the team and they were able to do remarkable things after freeing up an average of two extra hours per day. This has led to increased productivity and creativity and an overall sense of wellbeing.

He stated that apart from the employees, even the company as a whole benefits from this kind of strategy, due the monetary costs saved in terms of rent, electricity, internet, and transport.

Being a tech company, Fernando stated that it was easier to transition to this sort of strategy, as everyone on the team was already equipped with the necessary software and hardware and was used to WFH on the occasional evening/weekend. Furthermore, he stated that as a start-up, they were more predisposed to such a change.

He stated that the company has adopted a variety of software and apps to ensure that workflows are uninterrupted. These include WhatsApp and Slack for team communication, Notion for wikis, Zoom for meetings, JIRA for project management, BitBucket for code repository, Trello for individual task management, Metabase and Grafana for data visualisation, and finally Hubspot for sales and marketing.

He pointed out that the main challenge they faced when implementing the 4:1 strategy was with on-boarding new team members and helping existing members avoid the monotony of working from home as well as social isolation. However, he went on to state that no new policies or guidelines were needed for this transition, as they trust their employees to do the right thing and continue the workflow with no interruptions.

Furthermore, Fernando stated that so far, the team has been very open and has welcomed the change, and the company will continuously review progress until they get this strategy right.

Another company that has made the choice to leave a permanent office space behind is Kings Co., a creative agency based in Colombo, specialising in branding and advertising.

Kings Co. Co-founders Hash Bandara and Umanga Samarasinghe stated that they had been testing the WFH concept before the pandemic, but only fully embraced it once the pandemic hit.

“We currently have a team of five, and when we transitioned to WFH a month into the pandemic, we saw that our employees were more relaxed, so we realised that this would be the best way forward.”

They added that they also see several benefits to WFH; cost, time, and energy savings on commuting, being able to hire people from anywhere in the world, flexible work schedules, and reduced stress levels. They explained that they managed to adjust better than they expected, and are currently learning new methods of communication using technology.

In order to support their workflows, Bandara and Samarasinghe stated that they implemented several new policies and guidelines for their team to follow. These included installing the required software and equipment at home, monitoring the conditions of their place of work, ensuring each member maintains work-life balance, implementing security and privacy measures pertaining to using personal Wi-Fi connections, and other measures to promote productivity.

However, the duo stated that they also faced challenges adjusting to the new norm, as their team members had to learn to get used to the new working environment, which initially had an impact on their delivery time. They went on to point out other challenges, such as power failures, which affected workflow, and other distractions associated with WFH.

Bye for now office

Nehemiah Consultants, an independent public relations (PR) and content creation agency which has been in operation for over six years, has opted to move their company to a WFH/remote-working strategy temporarily.

“We did not set ourselves a time frame as such or a deadline to say when we would stop working from home. However, since it worked out well for us over the last few months, we have decided to go ahead with the way things are now,” said Public Relations Services Director Nishu Gunawardana.

Gunawardana explained that their strategy in working with their clients has been to introduce digital solutions like virtual meetings, online approval systems, file transfers, e-reporting, and even bank transfers for payments. She stated that most clients have been more than happy to transition and that they have garnered very positive feedback.

“We have implemented a lot of new digital solutions that makes life easier for everyone, and going paperless is also beneficial for the environment.”

She stated that their employees love working at their own pace and the company has only given them three simple guidelines to ensure workflow; this includes getting their work done on time, keeping the heads informed of any issues, and always answering their phones.

In terms of profitability, she stated that they have been able to reduce their overheads on account of not having to pay rent and for utilities, among other things, with only their data solution and mobile phone bills having increased. However, she went on to state that they had greatly reduced their travel cost because all their meetings with clients have been moved online.

“Apart from the obvious cost factor, we also found that our staff is more comfortable in their own work spaces. Contrary to popular belief that WFH makes people lazy, we have found that our guys are more motivated to get things done faster and spend more time at home doing other stuff as well.”

Gunawardana explained that for them, it was all about technology and introducing a new way of doing things, to their clients. She stated that while this transition to digital-based PR has been an interesting one for them and their clients, they are still learning every day.

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Ooredoo Maldives partners with Sri Lanka’s ‘oDoc’ telemedicine platform

Ooredoo Maldives partners with Sri Lanka's 'oDoc' telemedicine platform

oDocMaldives

Local telecom giant Ooredoo Maldives, on Sunday, announced its partnership with Sri Lanka’s leading telemedicine platform ‘oDoc’.

The platform connects patients with doctors for virtual consultations, with the aim of connecting people to “high quality health care that is universally accessible and affordable to all”, said Ooredoo Maldives’ Managing Director and CEO Najib Khan.

Customers can access the service and be billed directly by Ooredoo via its carrier billing service, eliminating the need for credit or debit cards, and is available to both its Postpaid and Prepaid users.

“Access to digital platforms such as oDoc has become necessary during these unprecedented times. Our customers can now reach out to their doctors in Sri Lanka for follow ups at their convenience, without having to travel and at an affordable price”, said Khan.

Users can utilize the oDoc virtual clinic to seek medical consultations from over 450 Sri Lankan doctors including general practitioners, pediatricians, psychiatrists, dermatologists, gynecologists and more, with a waiting time of less than three minutes.

Furthermore, Ooredoo revealed that Maldivian doctors will be added to the platform in the future.

All doctors on oDoc are fully qualified, registered and have at least five years of post-internship experience. They are also authorized to issue prescriptions to a patient’s phone after a thorough video consultation.

Research by the American Medical Association (AMA) found that nearly 75 percent of regular doctor visits can be handled through audio video consultations.

“With the advancements in technology, fast moving, digitally enabled and always connected lifestyle, Telemedicine has gained acceptance and popularity across the globe”, said Ooredoo, adding that over 200,000 Sri Lankans currently trust oDoc for their healthcare.

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How digital companies are reducing the strain on our health sector

How digital companies are reducing the strain on our health sector

As demand for medical professionals, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities keeps growing across Sri Lanka, there has never been a greater need to diversify the country’s healthcare sector and find a more efficient solution in order to reduce the overall strain on healthcare professionals.This has brought in a new appreciation towards local digital healthcare services such as telemedicine companies and e-pharmacies, and they have seen a significant growth in the usage of these services since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.
In light of this, The Sunday Morning Business spoke to two of the most prominent players in this market segment to determine the response they have received during the prevailing virus outbreak in the country.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, Dr. Janaka Wickramasinghe, the Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of oDoc, Sri Lanka’s largest telemedicine company, stated that the demand for oDoc has increased immensely over the past few months, especially with the Government endorsing telemedicine as a response to staying safe during Covid-19.

The oDoc app allows patients to consult doctors via video, audio, or text, thus enabling patients to do so in the safety and comfort of their own homes. It also allows patients to channel Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC)-registered doctors, obtain medical advice, receive prescriptions, and even get medicine delivered.

Currently, oDoc has over 200,000 Sri Lankan users and acts as a B2B (business-to-business) app for over 60 local corporates by helping the employers provide their employees with medical care. Recently, the home-grown service expanded their operations internationally to India and the Maldives. It also won the Commonwealth Digital Health Award in Telemedicine and the e-Swabhimani Digital Social Impact Award.
“In a pandemic like this, where even stepping out could increase the risk of us catching the virus or spreading it, telemedicine is the best way forward. You minimise the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. You can use oDoc to get your initial consultation done and get advice on what you need to do based on your symptoms,” said Dr. Wickramasinghe.

Telemedicine looks to address several issues of the local healthcare system in the current environment. These include the congestion of public healthcare facilities which leads to an increase in the transmission of the disease, access to healthcare, healthcare expenditure due to increased demand for tertiary healthcare, and the risk of exposing elderly patients to Covid-19.

According to Dr. Wickramasinghe, oDoc gives three solutions for the issues plaguing the current healthcare system: Giving initial medical advice, care for domestic isolated, and care for vulnerable groups.
Initial medical advice includes unwell individuals first doing online consultations without having to go to a hospital. After the consultation, they can be directed to a hospital for examination if needed. This is set to reduce congestion and the risk of infection from other patients.
As for the second use, individuals who have been quarantined can use the platform to obtain medical advice as their movement is restricted.
Finally, vulnerable groups such as the elderly with other underlying health conditions, who are doubly vulnerable to Covid-19 and have seen higher mortality rates the world over, can use the platform to avoid visiting crowded hospitals unless absolutely necessary. Prescription renewals could also be handled by the platform.

The platform also looks at improving the health of citizens by giving increased access to healthcare, reducing healthcare expenditure by reducing demand for tertiary healthcare, and increasing the productivity of citizens and associated economic benefits.

Dr. Wickramasinghe stated that since the start of the pandemic, the app has had over 25,000 downloads, with around 5,000 video consultations completed just last month. Accordingly, in order to deal with this sudden increase in consultation volumes, they have had to bring onboard over 150 additional doctors to the platform. This has increased the number of doctors on the app to over 600.

He stated that all these doctors have to follow the most up-to-date protocols published by the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services specifically when dealing with Covid-19. Furthermore, he said the platform has joined hands with government doctors to launch the Sri Lanka National Telemedicine Service on behalf of the Ministry of Health, with the support of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).

“Through this CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative, every Sri Lankan has the option to obtain a video consultation with a government doctor free of charge via oDoc from the comfort of their homes,” he explained.

This has increased daily consultations through the app by 10x and made oDoc the number one medical app on Google Play and Apple App Store for Sri Lanka, even above other e-channelling apps.
“Many users are downloading oDoc to use our advanced Covid Self-Assessment Tool, which is based on WHO (World Health Organisation) and CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines that are continuously updated. It is available in Sinhala, Tamil, and English,” he noted.

Dr. Wickramasinghe further stated that from their B2B side, the platform has signed over 20 companies to their corporate subscription programme since the beginning of Covid-19, which increased their total number of corporate partners to over 60.

He explained that the biggest challenge they faced before the outbreak was convincing the user to do the first consultation on oDoc. However, with the Covid-19 outbreak and telemedicine being the first response to it, a lot more people have used it and felt how convenient and effective it is. Due to this, even post-Covid it will be the new norm, he said.
Pharmacy online

Healthnet is Sri Lanka’s first full service e-pharmacy. According to its CEO/Director Deeshana Basnayake and COO/Director Rangika Wijesinghe, their orders and deliveries went up a few fold compared to their usual traffic during the few months prior to the outbreak. They stated that while it is hard to provide an exact number, the number of deliveries has increased by a few thousand.

First introduced in 2016, Healthnet delivers pharmaceuticals to the consumer’s doorstep for the existing retail market prices without any extra charge. Consumers can place their order by sending their prescriptions and required personal details via the Healthnet website, mobile app, email, Viber, WhatsApp, or general line. The platform provides high service quality due to the end-to-end services provided in-house.

Healthnet sources all medications directly from licensed importers and authorised agents. Prescriptions are prepared by Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC)-certified pharmacists and delivered using temperature-controlled transport units. The platform adheres to the regulations and guidelines set forth by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) functioning under the purview of the Ministry of Health.
“Consumers who are essentially patients need to have uninterrupted access to health services, despite any prevailing situation,” said Basnayake and Wijesinghe.

They explained that since the outbreak, consumers have had no physical access to a pharmacy, which has made it mandatory for them to reach out to online pharmacy services, similar to the way they have for other essential goods such as food. Due to this, the platform has experienced a significant shift in consumer behaviour towards online pharmacies.

Basnayake and Wijesinghe stated that since the outbreak, Healthnet has been seeing an increase in daily traffic to their website, amounting between 30,000 and 40,000 visits per day. Furthermore, despite this increase in operational demand, they have faced challenges of having to work with minimum resources due to the lockdown and being only able to mobilise a section of their staff.

In order to handle this increase in demand, they stated that they have activated remote working and working-from-home procedures for some staff, changed some of their processes that were identified as bottlenecks, optimised available resources, and stretched the working hours while introducing two shifts for operations.

Speaking on the training procedure of their delivery partners during the current environment, the two stated that their deliveries are anyway done in compliance to the guidelines stipulated by the NMRA through their own staff. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, they have further enhanced this by following WHO standards wen it comes to social distancing, such as conducting deliveries while wearing personal protective equipment (PPEs) and cashless transactions.

Basnayake and Wijesinghe stated that while there could be a certain percentage of consumers who may go back to the conventional methods post Covid, those who believe in social distancing and have experienced the benefits of online services will continue to patronise digital services. Healthnet currently delivers within the Colombo District and intends to expand to other regions of the country.

The greatest advantage of digital healthcare services such as telemedicine and e-pharmacies is that they promote accessibility in medical care, which is currently a hurdle faced internationally as well as locally. Therefore, the increasing popularity of them in Sri Lanka is something that should provide comfort to us all.

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Union Assurance partners oDoc to ensure protection of policyholders

Union Assurance partners oDoc to ensure protection of policyholders

With the spread of COVID-19 continuing to create unprecedented challenges to communities, Union Assurance PLC (UA) as an organization deeply committed to protect the well-being of its stakeholders, has been carrying out various programs to respond to this global health, economic and social emergency. As part of this commitment, UA was one of the first Life Insurance companies to cover COVID-19 through its health covers to protect and support the health and well-being of its customers.

UA has taken a step further to reach out to its policyholders by partnering with oDoc, a leading telemedicine solutions provider to offer convenient access to medical consultancy services and pharmaceutical deliveries. Customers that face various health conditions can now obtain the following services via oDoc: Free unlimited audio and video consultations with SLMC registered doctors not just for the policyholder, but up to 3 additional family members, digital prescription issuances along with discounted pharmacy deliveries and discounted mobile lab services to selected locations are offered for UA customers. This special service offering is valid from May 4, 2020 for a period of 3 months.

Commenting on this new initiative, Rumesh Modarage, Assistant General Manager – Life, of Union Assurance said, “We are pleased to partner with oDoc to offer our customers professional telemedicine services especially during these challenging times. Through oDoc our policyholders can avail themselves of services right from their living rooms instead of waiting rooms, ensuring round-the-clock access to medical care. All UA customers are invited to sign-up for oDoc services through http://portal.unionassurance.com or via their mobile phones.

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