Our #CapePioneers series showcases innovative local businesses that adapted to build resilience in the face of COVID-19. This week we speak to RecoMed, a digital health care booking system that connects patients directly to health practitioners. An advocate for digital business practices, Recomed has adapted quickly to the current climate, expanding on its offerings, including the integration of virtual consultations into its platform.
“In terms of quality of technology and the entrepreneurs, there’s no comparison.If investors want a return on their money, it should be flowing into the Western Cape full-stop. We just really need to get out there and showcase that.”
What are your core business capabilities?
We are South Africa’s leading online healthcare booking platform and marketplace. We provide online health care booking systems to 2200 healthcare practices around South Africa and are used by enterprises such as Medicross, Clicks, Dischem, Discovery and others. We connect patients to these practitioners through various integrated marketing channels that that we operate on behalf of our customers. In this vein, we help doctors and clinics see more patients and ultimately provide a better service to the public. We do 50 000 bookings a month, connecting patients to doctors and clinics, and we are used by a lot of blue-chip enterprise health-care customers. We pioneered the space of online bookings in South Africa – prior to us it never really existed – and it is now very popular and gaining ground quickly.
How has your business adapted to respond to Covid-19 challenges?
We’ve adapted really well, but because we're a tech company, everyone has been very comfortable to sit on virtual calls and communicate on these kinds of platforms remotely. All our management processes were set up to be tracked and done online, so there was no retooling that needed to go on. We actually didn't have to implement a single new system as we already had them all in place. Typically our staff members would work from home at least two days a week, so literally everybody came to collect their laptops and went home. We locked the office and we haven't been back! We were very fortunate… obviously we miss the social interaction of being in the team, but I don't think it's affected the work output at all… if anything, it’s probably improved it.
Are you involved in any product offering to assist with the pandemic?
We did initially see a little bit of fear – amongst the consumer and healthcare practitioners – around physical consultations, so we actually saw a surge in demand for online bookings. We saw the demand for elective procedures drop, but at the same time we saw a surge in people wanting flu shots. By the end of April, we started to get requests to add an option for virtual consultation (essentially a tele-medicine video consult) into our booking platform. After doing the research, we felt it was something we could provide, so we built a telemedicine platform that now allows people to book video consultations with doctors. The patients and the doctors get sent a link, it goes into their calendars, and it all works really well. In April, the industry came out in support of tele-medicine – Discovery for example is reimbursing for types of virtual consults - and that has really changed the game. In my opinion, it’s moved the industry forward by 5-to-10 years in the space of a month.
What has been an achievement or success for your business during this time?
In our case, the healthcare sector has been extremely engaged with us as suppliers. It’s actually been the busiest time in our history, because our customers want our help as health tech leaders. This period has shone a spotlight on how digital health technology companies can really help the legacy companies, the old bricks and mortar businesses in healthcare. And we really want to step up to meet the challenge. Thankfully, we have not had to retrench any staff and have actually managed to secure additional funding and grow our team.
What lessons have you learnt?
I think this adoption of health tech is going to be permanent. The patients were always ready for this, but now the industry is ready because they need to adapt to survive. We’re pleased that after six years of building RecoMed, we are able to meet this challenge in the market. What is most rewarding is that we're helping the patients who are really sick, worried, and scared; and we're helping the doctors who's practices are struggling, because they can't connect to their patients properly. And that's really what we do – we connect them.
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