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Telenor adds another jewel in its impressive array of value added services called TeleDoctor. The basic premise is simple, whenever you need a doctor’s advice, you just pick up the phone and thats it.

They have doctors onstaff who can communicate with patients in Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Siraiki, Brahwi, Hindko and Hazarvi, and female doctors for female patients as well.

This project is an solution by E-Health, a company run by Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed.

But… (yes, there’s always a but!).. does it deliver any value?


Lets break down a typical doctor’s office visit. In most scenario’s, we go to a doctor’s office, wait for anywhere between 20 to …

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Telenor launches TeleDoctor VAS. Does it deliver value?

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teledoctor Telenor adds another jewel in its impressive array of value added services called TeleDoctor. The basic premise is simple, whenever you need a doctor’s advice, you just pick up the phone and thats it.

They have doctors onstaff who can communicate with patients in Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Siraiki, Brahwi, Hindko and Hazarvi, and female doctors for female patients as well.

This project is an solution by E-Health, a company run by Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed.

But… (yes, there’s always a but!).. does it deliver any value?


Lets break down a typical doctor’s office visit. In most scenario’s, we go to a doctor’s office, wait for anywhere between 20 to 120 minutes, have them ask a couple of questions and be cut off as soon as we open our mouths to speak, then hear a two minute opinion (or if we’re very lucky, a half hour lecture on how great they are and what they’ve achieved), get a prescription, pay between Rs. 400 to 1200 and leave. If we allow an hour of traveling to and from the doctor’s office, that’s approximately a 2 to 4 hour task, and we pay between 400 to 1200 rupees for the privilege.

So basically, you do all that effort to hear a two to four minute opinion on what our diagnosis is, or what sort of further tests should you be getting. The one most commonly voiced grievances from doctor’s is that they dont listen nor tell enough to justify their fee’s.

This is, i believe, where the ‘value’ lies in a TeleDoctor service. Its priced at Rs. 8/min, which means, the more you are on the phone with your doctor, or the more they are talking to you, the more money they’re making! It translates to a better informed patient and a doctor who spend smore time with the patient and not having a tea/coffee session in their room with their friends while the patients wait outside for hours.

Therefore, a patient who calls up a teledoctor and spends half an hour discussion their situation with them ends up spending only Rs. 240 coming away with a better idea of their condition and they can do it in the comfort of their own homes, instead of going through the situation stated above. Even if you end up paying equivalent to a doctor’s visit (Rs. 400) you get 50 dedicated minutes with your medical professional! Now that is a deal!

Because honestly, we all just want a doctor who will listen to us and cares about our health rather than our money. Good going telenor!

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13 Comments

  • Mansoor, you’re forgetting one important aspect of this service – how much of an impact could this have in rural areas where access to doctors is others scant?

    Can preventive medicine be practiced via this service?

  • Mansoor,

    Apart from the value it delivers we also have to keep in mind various aspects. How would the doctor know the temperature, BP, Heart rate and other vital signs. Only the informed/educated people might be able to communicate properly with the doctor when it comes to those vital signs. Where would they go initially to get the tests done and then call Telenor TeleDoctor. I am sure Telenor would have put it enough research and time to do the complete analysis of the need for this kind of product. I just hope that it proves to be a break-through service for our developing community/country.

    Nevertheless, all the best to Telenor.

  • Obi Wan Kenobi

    400 is only charged by specialists. Gnerally Gali Muhallah doctors only charge 40 Rs and it does not take hours at least in Karchi and this aspect of life is sorely missed by me in US.

    The plus point for this servie is rural areas, late hours, holidays, strikes, domestic issues where ladies have difficulty to leave home. Endless possibilities if only doctors are sincere.

  • Obi Wan Kenobi

    Tee Bee , this is not a replacement for conventional methods, it is a sort of first aid on phone. Most of the people in rural areas die due to lack of basic knowledge.

  • osama: preventive medicine is practiced by the people, not by the doctors. meaning there has to be a culture of taking care of yourself, which is sorely lacking. whenever i talk to my driver (or other domestic staff) this is one area i frequently hear of, that their elders or siblings back in the village are not health conscious enough to even consider that they may have something serious. its a whole ‘gaon’ thing i’m told.. :S

    tee bee: its not supposed to be a first-call service anyway, but rather a consultative second opinion service. i’m sure that if you call up the first time, the doctor will tell you to get certain readings/tests done. (just like in a regular visit) Otherwise, they ask for symptoms which are indicative and can let a medical professional know what readings may be off. the services of a real live medical specialist can not and should not be replaced for the simple reason of having that human touch, otherwise, its a much more efficient use of their time to dish out advice over the phone :p

    obi wan kenobi: the general gali muhallah doctor will always have their value as long as the ‘injection’ is available. have you noticed just how many people prefer to just have an injection rather than take tablets or have tests etc in the lower stratum?

  • Obi Wan Kenobi

    Mansoor, your whole argument is a moot. Do you really think people who could afford 400 for a dr. visit will call this service ? I would trust my gali muhallah dr. for any thing unless he is not available and I am forced to call this service and even in that case I will try to find first a dr. in my acquittance. And why do people prefer injection ? Because the meds are very expensive so they just need a quick fix and then they can’t take any day off from their work either :-(

  • the first scenario you gave is only valid for the specialists. GPs do not charge that much and you usually dont have to wait for them for that long.

    i believe that this service is a disaster right from the beginning.

  • Firstly, even well versed patients have trouble explaining symptoms. Clinical observation is a must. I have seen this first hand as my younger brother was very sick and in hospital for over a month recently. All the test results from various resources never matched, and the in-house doctor and other doctors seldom agreed on the meaning of the numbers. We put more weight on the doctor in-house because he was able to monitor and perform a clinical examination of the patient and thus could consolidate his medical opinion.

    Secondly, I have seen some of the research that telcos base their VAS decisions on. I have to say that with the voice revenue crunch and push for more VAS and data revenue, telcos agree to add almost any service which does not cost them upfront or does not have a feature which some how is not allowed by telco policy.

  • I think the reason we are all speculating here is because no information from alpha/beta launches is available, which is surprising in the current circumstances.

    More questions:
    Did they just release this product with a price-tag, or did they do a limited-launch of some sort first? If it is the later, did they publish/share the results from that launch somewhere?
    More importantly, what are the credentials of their TeleDoctors?…the ones who will be paid a fraction of 8 Rs. per minute, which will amount to less than 500 Rs. per hour, while their colleagues running private clinics can make the same amount of money from a 10 minute visit by a patient. Their service would be more credible if they publish their TeleDoctor profiles somewhere, no?

  • Apparently, Grameen Phone, a subsidiary of Telenor operating in Bangladesh, started a similar service a couple of years ago and was successful there… so that answers the marketing research question.
    (I didn’t have time for fact-checking – just read the message on a mailing list)

  • I think this is highly unethical that a doctor prescribing without examining a patient. In western countries it is illegal and practicing license of a doctor gets cancelled if he is found prescribing on phone. So far we have not been able to eradicate quacks(unqualified doctors) from our society, and now we have started another curse of teledoctor.

  • http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20100806/britain-online-doctor-100806/
    Interesting article

    In countries including Canada, Denmark, Norway, Germany and France, doctors are only allowed to treat patients online if they have previously seen them in person.

    In the United States, several companies offer online medicine, but patients must typically speak to a doctor on the telephone or set up a videoconference for a live, face-to-face chat.

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