What if those most in need could get free health advice from medical experts, no matter where they were? We’re working with Facebook’s Free Basics initiative to make this a reality.
Our platform enables patients to receive expert advice from doctors via their smartphone or computer – anywhere in the world. But how can we open up such a critical resource to those in less developed regions of the world, who are perhaps most in need of healthcare advice, but for whom a mobile data contract is not affordable?
Our mission is a global one: to ensure that high quality, affordable healthcare is accessible to everyone. In order to open up this life-changing information hub to people in remote rural communities who have never surfed the limitless realms of cyberspace before, we aligned our interactive telemedicine platform with the Facebook-led initiative Free Basics. Free Basics(internet.org) is a collection of informative online services for which the user does not incur any mobile data charges. Already serving over a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America, Free Basics ensures that people from all socioeconomic groups can browse news pages, health information, employment advice, local government sites and much more – all for free. Our Question and Answer forum is one such service found on the Free Basics platform.
"...sensitive or culturally taboo topics, such as those relating to sexual or mental health, can be addressed..."
Bringing healthcare online has the potential to make a colossal impact in rural areas where there are few medical clinics but ample cellphone reception. For those who live hundreds of miles from their nearest medical practice – who may never have seen a doctor before – receiving advice from a healthcare professional via the Q&A forum on our app is a life-altering development. The anonymity of being able to ask a question online also means that sensitive or culturally taboo topics, such as those relating to sexual or mental health, can be addressed. Women with reservations about visiting a male doctor are seeking advice in the forum, and those too elderly or frail to visit a clinic can get expert answers to their questions from the comfort of their own home.
Through Free Basics, this transformative, free resource is becoming available to millions of information-hungry people. In remote, rural areas, people have often had little to no education about how the body works. Breaking down barriers between impoverished communities and the infinite wealth of information online is an extremely powerful development. People can have greater autonomy over their own care, with recourse to healthcare professionals who may be thousands of miles away.
“...in India more people have access to cellphones than toilets...” - United Nations University
Since the hugely successful launch of the Q&A forum almost two years ago, thousands of people who have never enjoyed access to the vast wealth of online information have been able to reap the benefits of our online network of medical professionals. In countries such as India, where the bare essentials such as clean drinking water and sanitation are not a universal given, a startling percentage of the population does in fact have access to a smartphone. In 2017, the number of smartphone users in India is estimated to reach 340.2 million; to bring this into sharp relief, the United Nations University reports that in India more people have access to cellphones than toilets.
Thousands of questions have already been logged in the forum and our extensive network of healthcare professionals is working hard to provide advice on an entirely voluntary (pro bono) basis. Patients and doctors around the world are connecting in a way previously impossible, with humbling results.
Fostering accessibility to this service forms part of the realisation of our Corporate Social Responsibility policy. CSR is increasingly taking centre stage in terms of companies setting out strategies that promote social benefits beyond the interests of the firm - a form of ‘giving back’ to the community. Our local teams on the ground in rural India and Pakistan are already making excellent headway in introducing the RingMD platform to communities that currently have extremely limited healthcare provisions. We’re determined that a basic standard of healthcare should be a right, not a privilege, and that access for everyone means everyone.
For more information or to ask a health or wellness question, visit https://www.ring.md/questions.
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