Xanet Scheepers

By Xanet Scheepers

Digital Lifestyle Editor


Affordable healthcare is about to get a lot more accessible in SA

In South Africa, 85% of the population lacks access to private healthcare.


How many times have you suffered through the day at work, feeling terrible, but not sure if you are sick enough to justify spending R500 – R700 on a GP consultation fee. Or perhaps you just couldn’t get time off from work to go to the doctor or clinic.

As the world observed World Health Day on Sunday, 7 April, Unu Health, in partnership with Intercare announced that they will be launching a groundbreaking ‘as-you-go’ offering that will revolutionise accessible healthcare in South Africa.

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SA’s lack of affordable healthcare addressed with new app

Speaking to The Citizen, Tania Joffe, CEO and Principal at Unu Health, a venture within Standard Bank, says they are trying to make private healthcare more accessible to South Africans.

“We are really focused on how we can make quality healthcare – leveraging technology, but also leveraging doctors and nurses and bringing the two together – to drive costs down.”

“We have created a zero-rated app that you can download from Google Play and the App store as of this week,” says Joffe. The app, called Unu Health, will allow users to seek medical advice on their phone when they are not feeling well.

The app allows you to create a profile to which you can add three dependants. Once your profile has been created, you’ll be asked a couple of health questions after which you will be given a health score to give you an indicative sense of ‘am I in the orange, am I in the red or am I in the green’ just to see how you are doing generally. This is scored out of a 100. The app also allows you to run a face scan using your smartphone’s camera and within 50 seconds it will tell you what your pulse is, what your blood pressure is and what your oxygen levels are.

This, Joffe says is where technology is going: “The app is actually scanning your subdermal blood flow – it’s an imaging capability and it picks up the pulse (the volumetric changes – and then that, together with AI and deep learning (algorithms that have been trained on big, big data sets) is able to give you a clinically accurate blood pressure reading, your pulse and oxygen levels.”

How does the Unu Health app save you money and time?

When you go to the doctor, you not only have to cough up anything between R300 – R1 000 for a consultation, you also have to put in a day’s leave or take variable pay for missing time off work. For those who can’t afford the GP consultation fee, they have to go to the local clinic early in the morning already to que to get medical help. Having said that, there are also individuals who are very busy and just don’t have time to see a doctor and often end up self-medicating.

The Unu Health app will bridge both of these gaps – affordability and time – as you will be able to consult with a nurse (R95) or doctor (R179) over your phone. Once you have chosen your preferred health care practitioner and paid the fee you are placed in a que for your online consultation.

During the online consultation process you will also be triaged – where you are asked a couple of simple questions asking what your symptoms are, where you are experiencing them and how long you have experienced them. This process aims to diagnose what could be wrong with you and at the end it will recommend whether you need to speak to an online nurse or if an online doctor will in fact be able to help you or whether you need to see a medical practitioner in person.

With 60% of South African deaths being lifestyle related, Joffe says their aim with the Unu Health app is to give people an early warning if you have elevated blood pressure or another high reading that should get checked by a doctor.

“With the app we are trying to make healthcare easily accessible and affordable so people can take action early,” concludes Joffe.

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