Digital technology is flying into sci-fi-like places. But often, the innovations developed are inaccessible and unaffordable and therefore out of reach for the 84% of South Africans who rely on public healthcare. Not these ones.
The Mxit Reach Trust and BabyInfo
The infant mortality rate in South Africa is 43 deaths per 1 000 live births – 10 times more than in developed countries. There’s also poor access to good health information, and low awareness of the importance of antenatal care.
BabyInfo is an application on the Mxit mobile platform, equipping prospective mothers with relevant, high-quality info. Mothers-to-be subscribe to the free service and receive daily educational messages, timed to the stage of their pregnancy. This service enables informed decisions regarding mother and baby’s health. The service also helps ensure that people use the national health infrastructure at the right times.
Like many developing countries, South Africa faces challenges in providing equitable primary healthcare. Community health workers (CHWs) are central to improving access and reducing the disease burden.
But the CHW Programme has proved troublesome. Monitoring, supervision and reporting by CHWs, using pen and paper, has not produced sufficient, accurate or timely insight for stakeholders and decision-makers.
Mobenzi Researcher is a mobile field research and data-collection solution that allows sophisticated forms and surveys to be designed online and deployed to CHWs.
Mobenzi Outreach adds functionality to the Mobenzi Researcher field research and mobile data-collection platform. It links CHWs, supervisors, clinics and patients. This supports patient enrolment, visit- scheduling, record-keeping, referrals, reporting, workflow and messaging.
The Southern African Regional Programme on Access to Medicines (SARPAM): The Tendai Project
Too many people in southern Africa suffer from disease without medical relief. Inefficient procurement and supply systems, weak regulatory and quality-assurance mechanisms and high medicine costs continue to hamper access to essential, quality medicines.
The Tendai Project sees trained community health workers using mobile phones to collect data on the availability of medicines in South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Angola and Tanzania. SARPAM uses customised, open-source survey software to coordinate the data. This is then shared via mobile on the Medicines InfoHub, social networks and mailing lists. This helps identify problems, monitor interventions and promote advocacy.
More and more people in Africa can now access the internet on their mobile phones. But when it comes to healthcare, it’s more important than ever for users to distinguish between false and trustworthy information.
Hello Doctor is a platform that connects medical doctors to individuals. Users receive personal advice from a doctor via websites, mobile apps, radio, television and a call centre of registered doctors. Users can also view free, searchable health-and-lifestyle information, which is moderated by doctors. Access to doctors for individualised and confidential advice is on a subscription basis, from 95c per day to text a doctor a question, to R65 per month for a family membership, with unlimited telephonic access to a doctor.
CELL-LIFE mHealth Solutions
South Africa has the largest number of HIV infections in the world, with over two million people on anti-retroviral treatment. There is a big emphasis on HIV testing, but pre- and post-counselling sessions can be low in quality and quantity. Clinic visits and adherence rates to medication are also sub-optimal.
Cell-Life has developed two mobile services:
iDART, developed in collaboration with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and the Canadian International Development Agency, is an open-source antiretroviral pharmacy management and dispensing system. It includes daily positive-living SMSs and monthly clinic appointment reminders. The system has helped to change patient behaviour, improve drug- supply management and reduce waiting times.
JUST-TESTED aims to supplement HIV testing and counselling, by giving support and information to people who have just been tested, whether the result was positive or negative. It consists of free SMSs in Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa. The messages are sent to subscribers over four months, in line with the Health Belief Model. Most subscribers report that the SMSs are informative and help improve their outlook on life.
Adapted from the 2014 Health Innovator’s Review, compiled by Inclusive Healthcare Innovation, a joint initiative between the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business, and the UCT Faculty of Health Sciences.