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Medical aids cover digital psychology sessions

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Fund extends its free virtual medical consultations to all South Africans

MEDICAL aid giants are now covering psychology sessions done digitally, as South Africans stay home during the nationwide lockdown.

Bonitas Medical Fund principal officer Lee Callakoppen said the organisation was paying for psychology claims done either telephonically or via video, at the same rate as face-to-face consultations.  

“This has been discussed and agreed with the Psychology Association and will apply for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown,” Callakoppen said.

The fund has also extended its free virtual medical consultations to all South Africans. This facility includes medical advice about Covid-19, other medical problems, the writing of prescription where necessary, and free delivery of chronic medication.

The public can register on the Bonitas Mobile App and book an online consultation with a doctor.

“We’ve partnered with Afrocentric Health and Pharmacy Direct so that any chronic medication needed will be delivered to your doorstep. Doctors will advise and treat you within the guidelines set out by The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA),” Callakoppen said.

Part of the virtual consulting team, Dr Rani Elenjical said: “Internationally, we have seen that virtual consultations have helped alleviate some of the strain on the health care system caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Telemedicine offers a real-time consultation with patients. In the current pandemic, it is helping to bridge the gap between doctors and patients.”

Momentum Health Solutions (MHS) marketing executive Damian McHugh said the medical scheme has agreed to cover tele-psychology consultations delivered by registered psychologists through a telehealth platform during the prescribed period for its members.

“The delivery of digital counselling services is not charged at a higher premium and during this time MHS has ensured that some of the on-site counselling clinics are enabled with video-calling devices, at no additional cost,” McHugh said.

Momentum also delivers counselling services through a line which is available 24/7 in all 11 official languages.

“The services are available telephonically and via SMS, USSD and call-back, e-mail and video counselling, such as WhatsApp video, Zoom and Skype. The services are delivered by trained professionals. The services are not limited to counselling services only, but also include legal and financial wellness advice. Through Hello Doctor, we also offer 24/7 access to a medical doctor, which is extremely useful in our response to Covid-19. Hello Doctor is now free to all South Africans,” McHugh said. 

Discovery Health was approached for comment, but did not respond to questions by deadline. 

Late last month the HPCSA published guidance to practitioners on the application of telemedicine, saying it should preferably be done in circumstances where there is an already established practitioner-patient relationship, and where such a relationship does not exist, practitioners may still consult using telehealth provided that consultations are done in the best clinical interest of patients.