Expect a virtual visit from your Dubai doctor

Digital doctor consultation is already prevalent in western countries.

Virtual visits from your local doctor is already a booming business in many western countries, with health experts and specialists now available online with a credit card and a few clicks.

Could this virtual vision become a reality for Dubai? Health experts appear to think so, with Aster DM Healthcare group already working on this eventuality, even as the company launches its first of several online initiatives, its virtual pharmacy.

Speaking at the launch of Aster Online, the company's Chairman and Managing Director, Dr Azad Moopen spoke at length about their digital investment.

Innovation and digitization are the cornerstones of the future growth of this country, he said.

"We have to be at the forefront of the benchmark that has been set and going online was the order of the day to make this happen, and not just in the pharma sector."

He said his company's first step in the e-commerce space was the launch of its online pharmacy, calling it an extension of its 200 physical outlets, that last of which was inaugurated by Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar on Sunday.

The service will only be available for UAE-based customers across all emirates, with delivery within 24-hours of ordering at a cost of Dh10 for purchases under Dh100 and free for those over.

"Following the launch of Aster Online, which is currently retailing over-the-counter health and wellness products, we will allow customers to purchase their prescription drugs, liaise with healthcare professionals in future and even consult with our doctors through online portals," he explained.

Speaking about the online doctor consultation portals that are in the pipeline for the group, Alisha Moopen, Executive Director and CEO, Hospitals and Clinics, GCC said: "Online diagnosis is the way forward to get to a larger population and facilitate individual health needs.

"The group already provides at home doctor visits, along with skilled nursing and physiotherapy care. A digital consultation arm would build that bridge between our 1,500 doctors and specialists with our patients."

While digital doctor consultation is already prevalent in western countries, with a 10-minute consultation costing approximately $18 or Dh66, the younger Moopen reveals that she sees this transition to an online platform becoming a standard norm in Dubai in another three to five years.

"Patients have real-time needs today and while we can't completely eradicate that personal visit to a specialist for specific care, treatments for dermatology, diabetes, paediatrics and even general check-ups can largely be conducted via online means," she explained.

Moopen further added such a transition would take some time, with the company's current focus centred on its newest launch, which she said should account for two per cent of all pharmacy sales within a year, but "will account for 25 per cent of all pharmacy sales between two to three years in the UAE."

Later this year, the group is also open its mother and child hospital in June, with the Medcare Sharjah Hospital launching in Q4 2016.

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