Call-a-Doctor initiative from Kenya’s largest mobile service provider, Safaricom and ‘Call-a-Doc Limited’ will see Kenyans access medical consultations using their cell phones anytime of the day. Call-a-Doc Limited is an organization that deals with dissemination of medical information such as transcriptions and first aid procedures using the latest communication infrastructure i.e. mobile phones. The new service dubbed ‘Daktari 1525’ will allow ailing persons to seek medical attention by calling and speaking to medical experts concerning their health issues 24hours a day. Just like Safaricom’s customer care agents who are trained to address any glitches experienced by subscribers, Daktari 1525 initiative will avail qualified doctors who are registered by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (KMPDB) to seek persons in need of their services.
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‘Daktari 1525’ from Safaricom and Call-a-Doc Limited
The partnership will see Safaricom provide its call centers both at Mlolongo and at its headquarters in Westlands to qualified and registered doctors who will receive call from patients within the premises and remotely using the latest technologies; however, doctors will not prescribe treatment to the callers. Its estimated that Safaricom’s input in terms of call center facility, network infrastructure and marketing will cost the mobile service provider Kshs.15 million; on the other hand, Call-a-Doc Limited will recruit trained and qualified medical experts with the prerequisite registrations. At the time of writing this post, already 50 general and specialized doctors had been engaged in the initiative; they are expected to work in shifts with high peak hours having more doctors (15 to be precise). Kenya is currently experiencing doctor shortages and the Daktari 1525 service will help in decongesting outpatient units in both public and other health facilities.
In order to take advantage and exploit the ‘Call a Doctor’ service, users have to dial 1525 on their handsets which will go directly to the Safaricom call center at a cost of Kshs.20 per minute. Daktari1525 is widely expected to mature into a viable alternative to physically visiting health centers in search for medical advice; in turn, an estimated 50-60 percent of patients visiting hospitals while they can get similar, quick, reliable and most importantly safe to use services on their phones will help decongest health facilities. Safaricom and Call-a-Doc limited admitted having trouble on pricing citing doctors as the most expensive component in the initiative; however, further subsidies including call charges are expected to reduce costs through partnerships.
Despite the numerous benefits Kenyans are expected to reap from the service, the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board CEO acknowledged the service was bound to either fail or succeed depending on how it would be managed, he also cautioned that doctors are required to remain ethical and uphold professional confidentiality at all times while administering their services to patients via the phone. On top of that, he expressed concern on the quality of service citing feel, touch and see as vital signs doctors embrace in their professions.