Telemedicine Startup Means Free Health Advice to Refugees

If you need any feel-good news today, this is your chance. When you see the word "refugee" several things happen, visual images, deep emotions, and recaps of news stories and headlines flush throughout your mind. The word refugee has become synonymous with the follow-up word "crisis" but it doesn't have to be.

When refugees crossed borders, by land and sea, legally and "illegally," clandestine and otherwise, governments, NGOs, and charities braced for impact. Long-standing and well-known organizations like the United Nations and Red Cross deployed thousands of volunteers, aid workers, translators and social workers but something else happened.

It's easy to miss what happened in all the bad press but what happened is pretty amazing. Help came, but it came from unexpected places. It came from startups, it came from churches, it came from groups of friends and families who'd never volunteered before, it came from people just like you. The massive mobilization of these unexpected actors has worked to bridge the gap between what the government and NGOs can provide and what refugees need. Today's startup, Doxy.me is no exception. This, of course, is not new, we've spoken before about the Berlin-based education startup Daheim.

Like that startup Doxy.me is creating an alternative for refugees who simply cannot wait any longer for services to be provided to them. So what do they do? They give refugees free access to telemedicine services. Your next question is probably something like "what the heck is telemedicine?" Glad I assumed you'd ask. Telemedicine is when telecommunications technology like video-conferencing apps, text or audio communication apps and websites are used to provide real-time health care.

The benefit of these services is that the patient doesn't have to be anywhere near the doctor, in fact, they don't have to be in the same country. Although there are obvious limits to appointments that can't be conducted in person, patients can still use the telemedicine service for a variety of treatments. It can be used for standard medical care, counseling, therapy, patient education, and consultation, among other uses.

This could have a huge impact, especially for refugees who suffer from severe trauma but either cannot be seen by the proper medical professional or are unable to access the level of consistent care that they need. For those who are unable to travel from their homes due to mobility issues, illness or fear of leaving their homes, a consultation is just one online chat away.

So how do patients using Doxy.I get in touch with their doctors? Well according to Doxy.me, a study determined that they have the easiest telemedicine tool for patients to use. All the user has to do is go right from their browser, no download is required! This makes Doxy.me easy to use for those who may only have access to older devices or public computers which don't allow them to download applications. Users can use their site without creating a login, they can just go to the website, type in their name and click "Check In."

Patients and doctors connect via live chat, where patients wait in a virtual waiting room until their clinician is ready to assist them. In the waiting room, patients don't have to be bored! Clinicians can add pictures, text or video for patients to watch while they wait, just like the real world, minus last year's edition of Glamour with the folded pages. The video is high quality to ensure the best possible experience for both medical staff and the patient and, should the users prefer to use their phone or tablet, they can download the app for their Android and iOS device.

Patient information is protected by the same HIPAA laws that all medical staff use at regular hospitals and clinics. With end-to-end encryption, the user's information is still protected, even though they are using an online service.

Clinicians do need to create accounts on their site but, in addition to ensuring they are who they say they are, this provides them with additional benefits. Through their personalized dashboards, doctors can view the patients in their queue and the meeting history for that patient, in case there are recurring issues or long-term treatment plans.

Resolutions to large social "problems" come through the unique efforts and contributions of various groups like startups and other non-traditional actors who are stepping forward to bridge the gap. Doxy.me is pitching in by creating a free, accessible medical platform for anyone to use, who has access to the internet. The next step for Doxy.me and other independent telemedicine platforms will be getting the approval of insurance companies to make sure that people all over the world can use their services in much the same way they'd use traditional medical care.

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