TMCG – Medical Concierge Group introduces Health Information call away for help to save lives of different people in need.
Imagine when 20-year-old Annette had unprotected sex, she turned to friends for advice.
What could she do to prevent pregnancy? Could she buy morning-after pills from a pharmacy? Didn’t they have bad side effects? Her friends could not help.
She would have got immediate help by calling a remote doctor for consultations here at TMCG
At the time of Annette’s dilemma, The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG), an organization that provides health information and services to Ugandans via telephone, skype, or social media, had not set up shop.
Today, however, with TMCG having been set up in August 2013, some university students are getting their health information from the doctors and pharmacists that man the call center.
“People send messages to our inbox (Facebook) asking whether if they wash after having sex they will prevent HIV. Some university students ask us about emergency contraception while others ask us about how to use condoms,” Dr. John Mark Bwanika, the director of TMCG, says.
The service is not for university students only, however.
“Anyone can call. As long as they have a phone, they can reach us and they will be charged normal call rates,” Bwanika says.
What TMCG is – Health information call away TMCG Team
The organization offers services for all, but what exactly is it?
Bwanika says it is a medical call center, set up by and comprising doctors, pharmacists, IT professionals, and a lawyer, which has harnessed newer technologies such as phones and social media to provide cheap and timely health information.
On calling TMCG, a doctor or pharmacist will listen to the caller’s symptoms and advise on whether the caller needs emergency care.
If the caller does not need emergency care but needs a physical examination from a doctor, they are directed to a nearby health center.
Where further help can be provided on phone, the caller is told what tests they ought to do.
Medicine for symptom alleviation and first aid information is also prescribed via phone. All by a doctor or pharmacist.
Bwanika says in the event one needs emergency care, they will dispatch an ambulance, at the caller’s request.
“We have an ambulance management system, which involves us using GPS to track ambulances, and in case a caller asks for an ambulance, we dispatch the ambulance that is nearest to them,” he says.
“With Google mapping, we are able to locate health centers nearest to a caller and direct them there,” Bwanika says.
They also have a database of health centers and the services they provide. They also have information on prices for the services provided by some health centers.
“In case a caller requires a chest x-ray, we direct them to the health center that provides that service.
This way, they do not have to jump on a Boda Boda and go from the health center to health center looking for one that does chest x-rays,” he adds.
Patient experience – Health information call away TMCG Team
Allan, who called TMCG complaining of dizziness, sweating, and fever, says that the services are “ok; the gentleman handled me nicely. I will call again when I am sick.”
Darlene, who called complaining of a headache above the eyebrows, fatigue, decreased appetite, and coughing on exposure to cold, says she found the feedback by TMCG “exhaustive”.
“I was asked for how long I had experienced the symptoms and I said two days. I was advised to do a malaria test, take diclofenac for the pain, multivitamins for my appetite, and Cetrizine because I was possibly suffering from allergies.
Before being prescribed diclofenac, I was asked if I have peptic ulcers, [because] certain painkillers are not prescribed for people with ulcers.”
Another “Dr. Google”? – Health information call away TMCG Team
But is TMCG another Dr. Google? Dr. Bwanika says it is not.
“The information Google doctor gives is not filtered to suit set. Our information is more guided. If you call in from Mbale, we know you are susceptible to jiggers,” he says.
As Dr. Edward Naddumba of China-Uganda Friendship hospital, Naguru, and other doctors have previously said, virtual doctors are no substitute for a real doctor. Bwanika echoes them and says their service is no substitute for physical examinations.
But, where one can get a possible diagnosis and treatment via the phone or social media, one may skip the doctor’s queue and consultation fees.