FROM physicians, surgeons and dentists, Zimbabwe has some of the best medical and dental practitioners, whose work is not regionally or internationally recognised.
The reason why some of their work is not known is because of the nation’s backward laws that prevent these professions from advertising.
Zimbabweans are travelling to China and India for medical treatment yet they can get the same treatment in Zimbabwe.
Most international countries have relaxed the advertising laws for their medical and dental practitioners and are driving their nation’s medical tourism sector.
Zimbabwe needs to repeal the laws that prevent local medical and dental practitioners completely and allow them to compete at the same level playing field. This will allow our doctors to advertise their products and services in the media and online just like what you find in, say, India.
Technology has now taken over our day-to-day lives and we have not seen the reason why the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDCPZ) has maintained laws that benefit foreign countries and allow for our much-needed foreign currency to go abroad.
Why does a Zimbabwean need to go to India for a hip replacement?
Are we saying this service is not available in Zimbabwe?
There is a need for MDCPZ to completely remove the law that makes it illegal to post adverts.
The good news came on June 19, 2015 when they allowed our medical and dental practitioners to have websites but this did not go far enough to allow them to place ads in the media, billboard ads and full blown online ads.
It is now seven years since the last amendment of the medical and dental law was signed for Zimbabwe’s medical and dental practitioners to have a website.
It was illegal for healthcare providers, hospitals, medical and dental practitioners to advertise their products and/services.
The medical and dental practitioners should have seized this opportunity and reduced the flight of patients abroad and attracted the much-needed foreign currency to their practices.
Yester-year a lot of medical and dental practitioners professionals felt it was unethical for their profession to have an online presence because they felt it was a form of advertising.
There was a perception that an online presence was a cheap gimmick and respectable medical and dental practitioners did not need to stoop to such low levels in order to solicit patients.
There was a difference between medical and dental practitioners, professionals, who are in practice and supermarkets or stores, who are out to sell their goods and services.
Imagine a medical and dental practice’s office not having a phone.
There would be no way for patients, potential patients, outside organisations, or any other important parties to communicate with your organisation, or set an appointment unless they walked in the practice.
With Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration rate of 102% and internet access of over 60%, in 2012 the medical and dental practitioners championed the issue of online presence by professionals.
This led to the 2014 Council Policy amendment of Websites by the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe allowing their registered members to have websites.
With the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) in Zimbabwe, it is now paramount for the medical and dental practitioners to be able to advertise and have an online presence.
If you are a practicing doctor, a professional medical website could be the best thing that can happen to your practice. With more than 80% of Zimbabwe’s urban patients ‘Googling” for a doctor or dentist before visiting a clinic, Zimbabwe’s professional practitioners need professional medical websites and this ensures prominent online visibility for one’s practice.
The benefits of online presence means more planned first appointments, ensuring that your practice will be able to manage your operating time much better than before.
The browsing habits of your prospective patients are changing rapidly.
Now the lion’s share of urban patients use their mobile phones to search online as well, and a big chunk of them use multiple devices e.g. a PC or laptop at work, a mobile phone on the go, and a tablet at home, etc.
For a practitioner to have effective communication with their patients, your online presence needs to work equally well on large PC screens as well as small mobile screens. Conventional web developers are really not up to the task.
One of the most effective tools to educate patients is having the ads and an online presence. It allows medical and dental practitioners to reach out beyond the four walls of their practices, so that they can reach and teach everyone in the community about their health.
By not having a web presence, they are actually abdicating their responsibility.
With the growth of technology, it should be the senior medical and dental practitioners, who are no longer active in the practicing trade, and have become the senior statesman or stateswoman of the medical and dental profession, who are in the best position to provide online patient education through available online facilities, because they can provide information, which can be trusted.
If they do not participate in these said facilities, they are perceived to be selfish by allowing a lifetime of clinical and dental experience to go with them to the grave.
At Hansole, we have worked with a variety of medical and dental practitioners.
We go through a discovery to develop and design a process that is created to ensure that the medical and dental practitioners’ web presence is both attractive and useful.
The role of any government is to make sure its citizens have the best health services available and there is now a need to remove all the legal barriers that stop our dental and medical professionals from advertising on all media platforms available.
- Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers.