There are indications that doctors on the telemedicine app, HelloDoc, maybe reportedly referring patients to diagnostic centres to undergo test processes in exchange for a kickback. This was part of the findings of an investigative report by PREMIUM TIMES.
According to the report, the kickback scheme is designed to give medical practitioners who refer patients to the diagnostics companies a percentage cut from the amount that is paid by the patient. The standard rate offered by most testing laboratories in the health industry is about 20%.
Me Cure, Union diagnostics, Clinix, Afriglobal Medicare, and Vedic Lifecare were among some of the diagnostics companies listed in the report.
The relationship explained
Me Cure partnered with HelloDoc in July to gain access to the over 10,000 doctors registered on the platform. Before the partnership, it provided online consultations for people through its telemedical platform called Me Cure Smart.
A surge in demand for telemedical services resulted in the aforementioned partnership with HelloDoc.
According to Ajinkya Shelar, product manager of MeCure Smart, “Up to February 2020 and we were not able to handle the sheer volume of calls anymore. The scale and demand for telemedicine services is overwhelming. Hence, we decided to tie up with HelloDoc.”
“This partnership will allow us to onboard 4000+ doctors across every speciality ranging from general physicians to even neurosurgeons on our MeCure Smart app immediately and we intend to further expand it to up to 10,000+ doctors by end of 2020.”
The kickback scheme on HelloDoc
Verified doctors on the HelloDoc app are paid a 20% kickback fee from the amount paid by patients they refer to Me Cure for diagnostics tests.
The doctors are ranked into clubs and rewarded according to the terms of each level which include the number of referrals made and interaction on the app.
Other benefits attached to the clubs include free diagnosis for the doctor and family members, monthly credit to buy certain products as well as eligibility to attend international conferences and holidays.
Referring one patient gives a doctor 1,000 healthies, a loyalty token used to rank doctors in the scheme.
Rewarding doctors, physicians and other medical practitioners through the scheme is illegal because the patients are billed higher than is required in order for the diagnostics companies to cut out the kickback percentage.
In addition to the illegal rewarding, the scheme makes the treatment of patients to be subject to the medical company that pays the best kickback fee instead of the one that can provide the best care.
Section 65 of the Code of Medical Ethics of Nigeria regards transactions that “arrangement for fee-splitting, which is the practice by the managing practitioner of returning a part of the fee paid by the patient to the referring practitioner, or a third party, with or without the patient’s knowledge,” as unlawful and detrimental to the patient’s treatment, and punishable.
PREMIUM TIMES reports that two patients were referred to Me Cure, using the HelloDoc app and the kickback fee was received for one of the patients.
TechNext reached out to HelloDoc to ascertain if doctors on the platform have a partnership with Me Cure that pays them a kickback for each patient they refer and what the next line of action regarding the alleged partnership is, but they are yet to respond.
We will update this post as soon as they respond.
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