Griffin Mulcahey, VP of Strategy & General Counsel at Direct Health (now called Direct Health)
Recreating Healthcare in South Africa
Direct Health’s ambitions go far beyond changing US healthcare. Over the next 18 months Direct Health will deliver the future of healthcare internationally. As of May 15th, Direct Health is live in South Africa! I will address the regulatory and security aspects of each new country as Direct Health expands our reach.
Is Virtual Healthcare Legal in South Africa?
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has issued some mixed guidance on telemedicine. In 2011 and 2013, HPCSA has issued statements against call-center telemedicine where a doctor connects to a patient without a preexisting relationships.
But Direct Health is not “telemedicine” in this traditional sense.
Direct Health connects existing patient-health practitioner relationships. Direct Health is your doctor, not a doctor.
Direct Health satisfies South Africa’s core requirements for healthcare practitioner to diagnose, treat, and prescribe to patients:
- Patient informed consent
- Personal examination
- Secure (POPIA)
- Practitioner ethics
Informed consent. When prescribing care using telemedicine practitioners must ensure patients provide informed consent no different than standard practice. Every Direct Health patient provides consent to treatment when logging into the App.
Personal examination. A practitioner must have established a personal examination with a patient before practitioner can prescribe or supply medicine or a medical device to a patient. On Direct Health, all practitioners are treating existing patients, fulfilling this requirement.
Confidentiality. Practitioners must maintain patient’s information as confidential throughout treatment including if transferring information digitally or maintaining electronic records. Direct Health maintains complete confidentiality for all communication and documentation.
Security (POPIA). The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) will soon enforce new heightened standards for the security and storage of sensitive personal information. Fortunately, Direct Health, as a U.S. company, was built to the stringent security standards that already exceed POPIA obligations. All personal data in Direct Health will be processed and stored with the highest digital security standards possible.
Practitioner ethics. Direct Health does not practice medicine, healthcare practitioners do. Direct Health allows the practitioner to decide what is and is not within their ethical comfort. If a practitioner decides a patient must be seen in person or believes a patient must seek emergency care, the practitioner can simply request that of the patient on Direct Health.
HPCSA ethical standards require the professional discretion of healthcare practitioners regarding the diagnosis, scope of care or treatment should not be limited or influenced by non-clinical considerations of telemedicine technologies.
We at Direct Health could not agree more. On Direct Health, we leave the care in the hands of practitioners to provide the best possible care to patients.
Griffin Mulcahey, General Counsel and VP of Strategy for Direct Health. Disclaimer – Direct Health’s opinions on the use of its platform are not legal opinions. We recommend anyone seek local counsel for any specific questions regarding the health regulatory landscape of your home jurisdiction