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New Discovery Health app introduces personalised, end-to-end healthcare journey including 3 cutting-edge, first-in-South Africa innovations

Press release -

New Discovery Health app introduces personalised, end-to-end healthcare journey including 3 cutting-edge, first-in-South Africa innovations

  • The new Discovery Health App offers a personalized gateway to the healthcare system for every Discovery Health customer. It enables end-to-end healthcare system navigation and support.
  • The App provides access to cutting-edge digital healthcare technology and services for customers.
  • The App integrates everything to do with one’s health in one place, so that customers can easily check in on their wellness, access care, and manage their medical aid plan and other healthcare funding sources.
  • The App is personalised, and offers Personal Health Pathways relevant to each individual, providing tailored health and lifestyle recommendations for healthier living and better care.
  • In amongst the broad range of services, the App also introduces three exciting, first-for-South Africa features: Speak to a Doctor Now, Virtual Physical Therapy and Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health (internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for depression).

Johannesburg, 25 October 2023– Today, Discovery Health revealed the new Discovery Health App to members of the media. The App is available to all members of Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) immediately and will be made available to additional Discovery customers in due course.

“The new Discovery Health App is the digital front door to the health system for our customers, providing a single access point through which health consumers can meet all their digital healthcare needs,” explains Dr Ryan Noach, CEO of Discovery Health.

The App allows customers to seamlessly navigate and managed their health plan benefits. It offers personalised recommendations - “Just For You” – of lifestyle and healthcare interventions to improve wellbeing and care. The App also provides access to three market-first digital healthcare innovations: Speak to a Doctor Now, Virtual Physical Therapy and Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health, the latter with a focus on internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for people at risk or living with depression.

Three exciting new South African-first features: Speak To A Doctor Now, Virtual Physical Therapy and Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health

“We’ve listened carefully to customers and conducted extensive analysis including more than 2000 hours of digital focus groups to understand the healthcare priorities of members within the medical schemes which we administer,” explains Dr Noach. “In designing the app features and usability, we’ve carefully analysed how, when, where and why customers interact with the healthcare system and the elements that could improve both their wellbeing, and their experience of the healthcare system.”

1. Speak to a Doctor Now - customers can speak to a doctor on-demand, 24-7 and also summon immediate help in an emergency, geolocated to your current position

    "Our customers have resoundingly told us that “immediate on-demand and convenient access” to a healthcare professional is their primary healthcare priority. A particularly frequent use case is where parents need guidance on how to deal with a sick child after a workday or in the middle of the night, when traditional options for medical help are less accessible. In fact, our data show that between 16:00 and 20:00 there is a spike in members visiting hospital emergency rooms to access advice or care for relatively minor healthcare issues that need after-hours attention,” says Dr Noach. “This is not only inconvenient for members but also costly and inefficient with lengthy waiting times and frequently poorer perceptions of service and care.”

    Customers using this service on the app have various options:

    • In an emergency, hit one button on the App which immediately and automatically geo-locates the user, and summons emergency medical services to your location. There is also a transfer of relevant clinical records to the emergency services to enable improved care.
    • In non-urgent situations, individuals can choose to book an appointment with their own doctor, or a range of doctors on the Discovery Health network for a time that suits them. A fully integrated booking system facilitates this interaction with health professionals.
    • For an immediate doctor consultation, customers can access immediate urgent care from a panel of emergency doctors.

    “To ensure immediate 24/7 access to an urgent doctor consultation, Discovery Health has partnered with a highly skilled group of emergency room doctors from ER Consulting Inc (ERC). Through the ERC emergency support call centre, these doctors are always available for virtual consultations through the Discovery Health App, facilitating an immediate consultation, a treatment plan and where necessary, scripted medicine. They will refer customers for face-to-face consultations or emergency care when needed, and can dispatch an ambulance to the user’s location. Prescribed medicine can be delivered on the same day during business hours or collected from an after-hours pharmacy.

    • Speak to a Doctor Now is funded by Discovery Health Medical Scheme through a dedicated new risk benefit, for urgent care. Non-urgent care is funded from members’ available day-to-day plan benefits.


      2. Virtual Physical Therapy - Individuals access professional support for musculoskeletal rehabilitation

        “Evidence shows that only 50% of patients adhere fully to their home recovery exercise programmes,” says Dr Noach. “Available evidence demonstrates that ongoing daily support to comply with a rehabilitation programme and prescribed exercises, significantly improves recovery. Now, through Virtual Physical Therapy on the Discovery Health App, in partnership with Genie Health, customers can access in-app support for their prescribed physical and rehabilitation programme. Through this highly sophisticated platform, whilst doing the rehab exercises, the patient’s movement is tracked using computer vision through their device camera. An artificial intelligence engine is applied which ensures that the form is correct, and thus that they benefit maximally from their home exercise programme. Patients also have access to remote monitoring and coaching for better recovery outcomes through virtual consultations or through the available in-app-chat functionality. The combination of properly executed exercises, higher compliance and coaching leads to better rehabilitation outcomes, as well as a more satisfactory experience for both the treating healthcare professional and the rehabilitated patient.”

        As mentioned above, Genie Health is Discovery’s partner in the app to provide this virtual rehabilitation service.

        "We are incredibly proud to be bringing our virtual and hybrid Musculo Skeletal rehabilitation solution to South Africa”, says Deon Bührs Managing Director of Genie Health South Africa. “As the very first monitored virtual Musculo-skeletal platform in the country, we are excited by the opportunities to improve care and rehabilitation outcomes for these health professionals and their patients. We are excited to be partnering with Discovery Health to lead innovative improvements in care representing a great alignment of strategy and vision between our companies.”


        3. Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health – Customers now have access to internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) to treat depression

        • Alarming increase in rates of mental illness across the world, and most people do not access healthcare

        “Across the world, we see an increasing poor mental health, characterised primarily by a diagnosis of clinical depression,” says Dr Noach. “Globally, one in eight people[1]were living with a mental disorder pre-Covid-19, and many data sources now show that these rates have increased significantly, by up to 25% since the COVID-19 pandemic according to the WHO.”

        “South African trends align to these global mental health trends, with the prevalence of mental illness in DHMS members having increased by almost 20% relative to the pre-pandemic period. Mental illness now affects more than 13% of all Scheme members – effectively 1 in 6 members is living with mental illness and registered for treatment. The most diagnosed mental illness is depression, representing 60% of all cases, with Depression also growing in prevalence faster than any other mental health condition.”

        “Sadly though, the majority of people around the world do not prioritise their mental healthcare. One in three people in South Africa experiences a mental health issue, yet unfortunately only one in 10 of these accesses any form of treatment.”

        • Introducing the Mental Health Assessment Benefit, available to all customers

        In 2019, DHMS launched the Mental Health Care Programme, providing affected members with structured support for mental illness. Two years later, the Mental Health Care Programme was enhanced to create expanded access, a richer risk-funded basket-of-care and the introduction of the Relapse Prevention Programme.

        In 2024, DHMS will increase the focus on early intervention in mental illness, through in-app mental healthcare offerings and treatment:

        1. The new Mental Health Assessment in the new App

          Within the Discovery Health app, all customers can undertake a quick and easy mental wellbeing assessment. The assessments meet recognised clinical screening standards for both depression (PHQ-9) and anxiety (GAD-7). Once completed, the assessment results and clinical data are used to evaluate the customer’s risk of mental illness, stratify these risks and provide relevant risk-funded interventions for at-risk individuals.

          2. South Africa’s first funded digital therapeuticfor mental health, offering internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) to support the treatment of depression.

          The Discovery Health App makes South Africa’s first funded digital therapeutic – or ‘DTx’ –available to customers aged 18 years or older, who live with a diagnosis or symptoms of depression. This service is provided by Discovery Health in partnership with SilverCloud® by Amwell®, a globally leading and clinically validated digital behavioural health and wellbeing platform.

          “Digital Therapeutics are a new class of therapy, prescribed by a healthcare professional and registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). The Discovery Health internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) solution, delivered in partnership with Silvercloud, provides exclusive access to this innovative iCBT technology to customers of Discovery Health in South Africa, and must be prescribed by your health professional as they would for medicine and other treatments,” adds Dr Noach.

          SilverCloud® is an award winning, on-demand digital mental health and wellbeing platform with proven impact across more than one million users worldwide. Ongoing platform data shows that approximately 65% of SilverCloud users experience significant improvements and 56% of users diagnosed with symptoms of depression or anxiety were diagnosis-free within three months of using the platform. It is used by the UK’s National Health Service, Ireland’s Health Service Executive, and numerous provider and insurer organizations in the U.S. and worldwide.

          Prescribed by a healthcare professional (GP, psychologist or psychiatrist), this digital therapeutic within the Discovery Health app gives customers unique access to internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT), funded from the Scheme’s risk pool, on the Mental Health Care Programme. Evidence shows that, to treat depression and anxiety, iCBT is equally effective to CBT delivered face-to-face. The benefits of providing customers access to this tool include allowing patients to access care 24-7, no matter where they are located. Care and treatment can also be personalised to increase treatment effectiveness and outcomes.

          Eligible customers can access:
          • Engaging modules focussed on combatting depression or depression with anxiety
          • Personal supporters on hand to guide users through the modules
          • A 24-hour self-harm and suicide support for those with severe risk
          • Wellbeing modules for resilience, sleep and coping with stress

                As customers engage, real-time data is shared with the prescribing healthcare professional who can view and track progress in a dynamic feedback loop.

                “Discovery Health is demonstrating its global leadership and innovative approach by integrating digital therapeutic benefits into its mental health care offering. We are honoured to enable Discovery Health’s first-of-its-kind offering in South Africa as it eases the strain on mental health professionals while providing customers easy access to affordable and effective treatment options,” said Kathy Weiler, Chief Commercial and Growth Officer at Amwell.

                For those individuals who are not registered on the Mental Health Care Programme, the iCBT is funded from available day-to-day benefits, following the usual prescription from the treating healthcare professional.


                The new Discovery Health App’s easy-to-use interface is presented across four categories of features

                The App’s features are available under the following sections:

                • Just For You” – featured prominently on the App’s home screen, is personalised for each user prompting the “next best action” for the customer. It is dynamic linking to the most frequent interactions that a customer uses. Early in 2024, gamification will be introduced to offer incentives and rewards for the next best actions, closely aligned to Discovery's Shared Value, to enhance and protect the lives of our customers.
                • My Health” - customers can access information and programmes directly relevant to them. From a preventative health perspective, customers may book a Health Check or take the Mental Wellbeing Assessment. There are also focused programmes which are specifically relevant to the customer such as Virtual Physical Therapy or Digital Therapeutics for Mental Health.
                • “My Cover” - customers can manage their medical aid plan, including view their Medical Savings Accounts or WELLTH Fund, track and manage benefits and limits and track claims.
                • “Get Care” – access immediate care in the healthcare system like Speak To a Doctor Now. It facilitates search for healthcare professionals and bookings directly with their practice. Customers can also order medicine for same day delivery in this section, after uploading a valid prescription.

                The Discovery Health App is fully integrated to the rest of the Discovery digital universe, allowing seamless navigation between the Discovery Bank and Discovery Corporate apps.

                Delivering innovation that drives access to high-quality care at lower cost

                “Discovery Health has led the market in delivering world-class digital health innovations to its customers – offerings that are patient centric with our customer at the centre of the healthcare system,” adds Dr Noach. “The new Discovery Health app represents the culmination of years of development and learnings, aligned to emerging global trends in the digital healthcare space. Engagement with digital health services has been dramatically accelerated by the structural health system pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic.” says Dr Noach.

                This has also driven global investment in digital healthcare encompassing AI, cloud technologies, digital healthcare platforms, wearables, monitoring tech and more. Big Tech companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and others are driving the convergence of healthcare and consumer digitisation, with USD 157 billion invested in digital healthcare in the last decade, of which USD 100 billion has been invested since 2020.

                “The more technologies become available the more healthcare consumers show appetite for their use,” adds Dr Noach. “A recent McKinsey report [GF1] estimates that more than 50 million in-person healthcare visits that take place in the US each year, could happen virtually were adoption to be equally extended across patient segments[1].”

                “Our analyses also show a similar appetite for digital healthcare technologies among members of schemes administered by Discovery Health. Over the past year, 85% of members have used digital platforms to engage with us or to access the healthcare system. And, nearly half of the members exclusively used digital channels to access the healthcare system or engage on service-related matters, showing the astounding and growing demand for and penetration of digital technologies.”

                “We are committed to investing in better understanding and predicting customers’ evolving needs, and responding with innovative, and cutting-edge tools that broaden their access to healthcare,” adds Dr Noach. “This approach is entirely aligned with Discovery’s core purpose of making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lives.”

                The App can be downloaded as follows:

                • For Android, download the Health App on Google Play for your phone or tablet.
                • For iOS, open the “App Store” tab on your iPhone or iPad and download the new Health App.

                Disclaimer: Please note that the new Discovery Health App is currently only accessible for members of the Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS)

                [1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders


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                About Discovery

                Discovery Limited is a South African-founded financial services organisation that operates in the healthcare, life assurance, short-term insurance, banking, savings and investment and wellness markets. Since inception in 1992, Discovery has been guided by a clear core purpose – to make people healthier and to enhance and protect their lives. This has manifested in its globally recognised Vitality Shared-Value insurance model, active in over 40 markets impacting over 40 million lives. The model is exported and scaled through the Global Vitality Network, an alliance of some of the largest insurers across key markets including AIA (Asia), Ping An (China), Generali (Europe), Sumitomo (Japan), John Hancock (US), Manulife (Canada) and Vitality Life & Health (UK, wholly owned). Discovery trades on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as DSY.

                Contacts

                Karishma Jivan

                Karishma Jivan

                Press contact Senior Reputation Management Consultant Healthcare & Sustainability
                Lianne Osterberger

                Lianne Osterberger

                Press contact Senior Manager: Media Relations and Reputation Management 083 27 27 313

                Our core purpose and values guide us in all we do. A clear and profound promise: to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives.

                Discovery is a shared value insurance company whose purpose and ambition are achieved through a pioneering business model that incentivises people to be healthier, and enhances and protects their lives.

                Discovery Limited
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                2196 Johannesburg
                South Africa