[Column] Diego Gutierrez: Tech revolutionizing healthcare in Africa
Technology has not only responded to the immediate health challenges of the COVID-19 crisis but to regular healthcare needs across the continent too. Here are some of the ways digital healthcare solutions are improving – and saving – lives across our markets:
Enhancing healthcare facilities through digitalization
Through digitalisation, big data is revolutionising healthcare. Digital data collection, analytics and real-time reporting can streamline the workloads of healthcare professionals, optimise systems to increase efficiency, lower costs and wastage, and, ultimately, improve the outcomes for patients. Inaccessibility of medicines due to stock-outs is a major challenge for healthcare facilities.
A mobile platform like Vodacom and Mezzanine's Stock Visibility Solution (SVS) reduces the inefficiencies of paper-based processes by collecting data digitally to report in real-time on stock availability and expand public access to essential medicines. Since its launch in 2014, SVS is used in over 4 000 healthcare facilities in South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria.
Our Mezzanine-developed eLabs is another digital solution that highlights how replacing a paper-based system in the pathology laboratory can provide visibility in the value chain and decrease turnaround times significantly for results. In Zambia, eLabs has reduced the turnaround time for viral load test results by 58%.
Access for all
In Africa, distance and a shortage of resources prevent millions from access to healthcare. Mobile technology expands the reach of medical expertise to those in remote areas.
From enabling virtual consultations at facilities several hours away to providing critical health information on zero-rated digital platforms, mobile health (mHealth) services are opening lifelines to those who need it most. Our mHealth solution, mVacciNation, promotes immunisation coverage amongst children.
Developed through Mezzanine, the smartphone application captures vaccination records in the field, reports on stock to improve supplies and sends reminders via SMS. Through mVacciNation, more than 262 000 immunisation patient records have been created in Nigeria, Mozambique and Tanzania, with over 566 000 immunisations administered.
Improving maternal health
Improving maternal health is a key focus in the United Nation's sustainable development goals for health and wellbeing. For new mothers in Africa, mobile technologies have the power to enhance the quality of their lives through digital programmes that provide accurate information relating to maternal, neonatal and child health, and overall well-being.
Leading examples of these include our Wazazi Nipendeni mobile health platform, which has 1.2 million subscribers in Tanzania, and our zero-rated Mum & Baby service, providing information to 1.8 million users, and which Vodacom is developing in Mozambique as the Mama, Bebe and Nutricao platforms.
The positive impact of digital health initiatives across Africa has just begun. As we continue to innovate with new technologies and expand connectivity, imagine how many more people will benefit from access to improved healthcare and quality of life in the future.