At Unjani Clinic, we know that some of our success is due to the brands and businesses we partner with, enabling our clinics to offer cutting-edge services to all patients. We have recently partnered with the Intercare Group, which we believe represents the start of a meaningful strategic relationship that is sure to unlock value for Intercare, Unjani Clinic, and our patients.
The Intercare Group was founded in 2000 by doctors Hendrik Hanekom and George Veliotes, with the core aim of making people feel better through high-quality healthcare services. Today, the group operates medical and dental centres, day hospitals, sub-acute rehabilitation hospitals, as well as a specialised hospital focusing on women’s health. Intercare is a people-centred organisation which structures its services around the needs of its patients, driving improved access to affordable, quality, integrated healthcare – a mission and vision closely aligned with the Unjani model.
We are extremely excited about the potential of this partnership to enhance our offering and services to patients.
The rise of the digital age
As we have all seen during the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives and impacted how we think and act. If there’s one thing that emerged during this time, it is the way technology can be leveraged to close the gaps, allowing easier access to a world that was previously out of reach.
This expansion of technology services has extended to all aspects of our lives – including healthcare. The shift towards remote working, online shopping and virtual meetings has also led to more people using the internet to find health-related information, but this has largely been limited to self-diagnosis and treatment.
Before the pandemic, people rarely considered the idea of virtual consultations, but during the lockdown period and its associated restrictions and fears, patients and healthcare providers were forced to think differently. While lockdowns seem to be in the past, technological innovations are here to stay.
Virtual consultations – The next step in improved access to quality healthcare
A virtual consultation is a remote video conversation between a patient and a qualified healthcare professional. Virtual care will never completely replace in-person consultations, as many services cannot be offered online, but it will provide a convenient alternative in situations where it is not possible or feasible to visit a healthcare facility. From elderly patients and those with chronic diseases or disabilities to those with logistical or financial barriers to visiting a doctor, virtual consultations offer patients an unrivalled opportunity to connect with a trusted healthcare professional.
Intercare recognises the importance and potential of innovative healthcare models to improve access, and in 2020, the company successfully implemented a virtual consultation offering in its own physical facility network, creating a truly hybrid primary care model.
“A hybrid healthcare model consists of both in-person and virtual healthcare services which are seamlessly integrated for both health professionals and patients,” says Intercare Group CEO Dr Hendrik Hanekom, “The model is enabled through digital solutions including electronic medical records and virtual consultation platforms. This is the ecosystem we have built together with Unjani Clinic, and we are excited about the value it will bring to patients and Nurse Professionals alike.”
Unjani Clinics are conveniently located in the communities they serve, often providing the highest level of care in their immediate surroundings. Patients can quickly and easily access Clinic Nurses to get the quality healthcare they need, but there are some services our Nurses are unable to provide. When a Clinic Nurse identifies cases for which a doctor referral is required, this can pose a challenge to patients who are not able to afford the cost and time required to get the medical care they need.
By partnering with Intercare, Unjani Clinic Nurses can provide a convenient and cost-effective alternative to in-person doctor consultations. Where clinically appropriate, Nurses can facilitate a referral consultation with the relevant healthcare professional on behalf of their patients, giving them near-instant access to the professional medical services they need, including remote scripting when required. Furthermore, many Unjani Clinic patients do not have access to the technology required for a virtual consultation – a problem Unjani solves by offering the consultation at the clinics themselves, using the clinic’s own technology.
“Virtual consultations aren’t changing the who, but rather the when, where, and how of quality healthcare delivery. This is an important step in our referral pathway, and by bringing a doctor into an Unjani Clinic virtually, we extend the care pathway for our patients,” says Lynda Toussaint, Unjani Clinic NPC CEO.
We are very excited about this new partnership and look forward to enabling access to virtual consultations from our clinics. The Intercare Group is completely aligned with our strategies of innovation and driving improved healthcare access for all South Africans, and we look forward to working with them to enhance accessible medical care across the country.