Telehealth services are playing a critical role in South Africa in allowing easy and affordable access to quality healthcare, especially when it comes to children’s health.
“Telehealth advice services, especially by first-time parents and caregivers of young children, amidst COVID-19, are becoming increasingly popular,” says Dr Iqbal Karbanee, CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, a 24/7 telephonic-based helpline for medical advice, given by paediatric-trained nurses.
Paed-IQ BabyLine has assisted thousands of parents to make decisions on how to look after the health of their children.
Although the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has seen hopeful signs that the COVID-19 pandemic is at a turning point, healthcare providers report that worryingly, fewer people are seeking healthcare advice amidst concerns that leaving the house means an increased risk of catching the disease.
According to a recent Stats SA survey, 38.8% of respondents indicated they would not seek medical attention for non-COVID-19 issues, meaning that many people have avoided hospital visits for routine check-ups, fearing they may contract the virus.
“While medical providers are embracing technology-based solutions, such as digital and virtual consultations, not everyone needs to see a doctor – especially parents or caregivers – and this is where telehealth comes in,” he explains.
Karbanee says that telephonic medical advice services, which are not prescription or diagnostic-based, do not replace the role of traditional healthcare such as in-person visits, but are providing an important solution.
“Telephonic care from qualified and experienced nursing sisters often optimises medical outcomes,” says Karbanee. “By offering early and appropriate medical intervention through telephonic advice, we help parents take better care of their children’s health. We are just as likely to prevent emergencies as we are to stop caregivers from taking their children to a medical professional unnecessarily.”
He adds that services such as Paed-IQ BabyLine – which is not prescription-based and offers unlimited phone calls with qualified, trained and experienced nursing staff – helps to alleviate the burden on the South African healthcare system.
“In at least 70% of calls taken by Paed-IQ BabyLine, children do not need to see a physician and the recommended treatment is simple homecare. In these cases, seeing a medical professional is avoidable, doesn’t make sense, and is costly,” says Karbanee. He adds that approximately only 2% of the calls received by Paed-IQ BabyLine require emergency attention from a medical professional.
These statistics mirror international trends. In a global study conducted by Truven Health Analytics, it was reported that 71% of emergency department visits are unnecessary or could have been avoided. Of these, 42% required immediate attention for conditions that could have been safely treated in a primary care setting, 24% did not require immediate attention and 6% required emergency care that could have been avoided with appropriate primary care.
He adds that caregivers to new-born children are often plagued by anxiety and worry, especially in the first year of their baby’s life, and struggle to know what to do.
“They also don’t always have the time to take off work to go sit in a clinic or wait to be seen by a medical professional, which is another reason why telehealth services are valuable in bridging the gap between traditional clinical care, affordability and practicality.”
He cautions parents and caregivers to be wary of taking advice from “Dr Google” – which can increase fear and anxiety, or from well-intentioned family members or friends, who may be experienced caregivers, but get it wrong.
“Friends and family may not be qualified to give you the best advice – even though it is free, it can come at a cost, especially if you actually need to take your child to an emergency room, but think you can clear it up with homecare.”
He advises first-time parents to seek help from appropriate advice-based services that offer affordable access to quality care.
“Our experienced nursing sisters, trained in paediatric healthcare, use a pre-qualified checklist to quickly identify the medical concern and recommend the most appropriate action to take. By offering the first-of-its-kind telephonic-based triage care in South Africa, our service forms part of medical intervention strategies to promote health and prevent disease in young children under the age of 12,” says Karbanee.
Paed-IQ BabyLine’s protocol was developed for South Africa by Karbanee and is endorsed by globally renowned paediatrician, Dr Barton Schmitt, the father of medical-advice telephonic systems.
About Paed-IQ BabyLine
Paed-IQ BabyLine is a 24/7 telephonic-based, medical advice subscription service for caregivers to babies and children, given by paediatric-trained nurses. By offering early and appropriate medical intervention through advice, we have helped to safeguard the health of over 10000 children. Paed-IQ BabyLine reduces the burden on the healthcare system by offering quick, early and appropriate medical intervention via the telephone. Visit https://Paed-IQ.com/ for more.