Telehealth platform aims to be SA’s online sexual health clinic

While its focus is on areas of sexual health at the moment, telehealth platform Contro will look to expand into other areas of healthcare and broaden its product range. Some of these areas include primary health, mental health and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) says co-founder and CEO Alex Schmid.

Hand holding contraceptive pills for sexual health clinic

Schmid was speaking to ITWeb about the next growth phase for the online prescription and delivery service for sexual health and confidence products.

Launched in May last year, Contro offers “discreet” virtual consultations with licensed medical professionals, starting at R150. The service also includes medication prescriptions through the platform and delivery service at no extra cost.

Contro’s prescription services include birth control, erectile dysfunction treatment and hair loss treatment. Its acute services also offer once-off treatments for some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), thrush and urinary tract infections.

Schmid states: “Our next product launches will focus on genital herpes − which is something we’re looking at from a chronic perspective − cold sore treatments and emergency contraception.

“With the emergency contraception, we won’t be supplying the medication but rather just the prescriptions. The reason we didn’t launch with these is because Contro is not an emergency service; we don’t provide treatments for emergency situations.”

Schmid notes these products will become available in the next several months.

In the case of PrEP, he comments it’s a big area of focus for the telehealth platform. “This is something that we’re looking to put on our platform and start allowing more people to get access to.”

Schmid explains that addressing sexual health questions and concerns virtually allows more people to take control of their sexual health and sex life without fear of judgement.

Since launch, Contro has attracted over 1 000 customers, he reveals, noting 30% to 40% of customers live in areas such as Soweto and Cape Town’s Khayelitsha and Langa townships. “It’s great to see people getting better access to healthcare.”

To use the platform, the co-founder explains that a user will start off by signing up and then select the service they require. “If a customer chooses birth control, for example, they will have to complete an online health assessment form, filling in questions that would normally be asked during a doctor’s consultation – the process usually takes about five minutes.

“Once the form is complete and the customer has checked and paid the R150, the form is sent to one of our doctors who you’re assigned to and the system red-flags and lets the doctor know of areas that could pose as issues. Once checked out and paid, the customer is able to book a virtual consultation at a time that best suits them.

“After the consultation, which on average is about four-and-a-half minutes, the customer’s script gets sent straight to the pharmacy, packaged and delivered to their door for free.

“Every month, for a chronic product like birth control, we repeat your prescription and we manage it so that you always get your script on time and we charge R150 per month plus medication costs, if one is not on medical aid.”

In the case of STI consultations, he indicates these are also done virtually because doctors normally treat based on symptoms. “The big issue with STIs in South Africa is that getting a test is exceptionally expensive. The cheapest we found was R3 600, which is unaffordable for the majority of South Africans.

“When we spoke to the doctors about it, they said in practice, people don’t test and they get treated based off symptoms and they are provided medication on what their symptoms display.

“If it’s a complex case and there is something the doctors are absolutely unsure about and they can’t treat virtually, they will refer the patient to a state clinic or private doctor that the individual can afford.”

He continues: “We don’t do HIV because it’s a much more complex disease to manage. It requires more patient-doctor management and requires a lot of testing, so it’s not something we’ve gone into.”

As to growth, Schmid notes Contro is raising funds to further improve the business. “We’ve raised quite a bit of money and are in the process of closing the latest round of funding; we’re most of the way there.

“We want to be SA’s online sexual health clinic, and that’s where we see ourselves going. Further than that, we want to be South Africa’s go-to telehealth platform.

“Our plan is to expand way beyond South Africa; we’re looking to move into areas such as the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the African continent. South is just the start.” 

Published in ITWeb

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