• Appointments
  • Texting between healthcare professionals and patients increases

    For Africa’s health systems, investment in mHealth could be laying the foundation for an increasing trend in relationships between healthcare professionals and patients. A survey by West Corporation, sponsored by Tele Vox Solutions, and available from mHealth Intelligence, says more patients are texting  with their healthcare providers.

    It’s gone beyond appointment reminders. Provider-Patient Texting Is Poised for Growth has identified five other activities that have a large texting component. Demand by patients is:

    Preventive care                                                    95%Chronic condition management                          87%Post-treatment instructions                                 85%Check-ins based on remote monitoring data      84%Co-payment information and reminders              83%Delays that impact appointments                        80%Appointment reminders                                       71%.

    In addition, 60% of patients say it is very or extremely important for their healthcare provider to text them about five other topics:

    Remote health monitoringPreventive careDisease managementBillingScheduling delays.

    There’s a mismatch between supply and demand. For example, for preventive care patients demand 95% and providers text 25%, and chronic condition management patients demand 87% and providers text 31%. A similar trend is found across services such as post-treatment instructions (85% vs 7%), check-ins based on remote monitoring data (84% vs 6%), co-payment information and reminders (83% vs 6%), and delays that impact appointments (80% vs 49%).

    It seems that USA patients are more mobile-savvy than their healthcare providers. The findings indicate that Africa’s health systems may have an opportunity to build on their mHealth investment and expand their direct connections and engagements with their patients.  

  • Online booking expands to Algeria and Tunisia

    Booking appointments with doctors is seen by many patients as much easier online. It’s no surprise that DabaDoc, an mHealth start-up based in Morocco, has expanded its operations into Algeria and Tunisia. IFG.CC, the Potsdam eGovernment Competence Center, says that DabaDoc now supports over 2,000 doctors in the three countries since it started in 2014.

    DabaDoc’s distribution now extends across 72 specialties in 50 cities. Patients connect with doctors through DabaDoc’s website. It’s likely that it’ll be used in more countries during 2015. French speaking countries seem likely  users in the short term. A subscription service for doctors is also planned.

    Since it started, DabaDoc’s been highly acclaimed and successful in competitions. It won the GIST competition in Casablanca and was one of ten start-ups selected for the ArabNet Beirut competition in February 2014.

    Sister and brother, Zineb Drissi Kaitouni and Driss Drissi Kaitouni set up DabaDoc. Their achievements have been considerable in a short time. It’s only the start. eHNA looks forward to posting about their next success.

  • Patients booking appointments online is set to expand

    Meeting patient’s preferences and improving efficiency are two important parts of eHealth benefits. A survey by Accenture in the USA found that patients booking appointments online seems set to change by 2019.

    By then, 66% of US health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64% of patients will book appointments digitally. These changes are estimated to result in 38% of appointments booked by patients online. The financial gains are estimated at $3.2 billion. This is a result of a huge estimated growth in online booking from 2% in 2014 to 38% in 2019.

    The report says that USA health systems are being financially squeezed and patient volume is decreasing. Consequently, hospitals are competing to attract and maintain patients in local and national markets. The expansion of online booking is part of initiatives to add value and provide a competitive boost  for health systems.

    African countries don’t face these issues. Demand is well in excess of supply and growing. Expanding online booking can offer other benefits, such as better patient flow and more responsive healthcare. The report says that digital tools self-scheduling can be better than using other media, so are now more viable.

    Using mHealth apps for bookings may offer opportunities for some parts of the African countries’ health systems to be more responsive and enable the redeployment of some resources to other meeting other health needs. If the trend materialises, it may be easy for some African countries to catch it.

  • Two health apps solving real African problems

    This years’ DEMO Africa event was in Nigeria on 24 September. Forty young startups from across the continent pitched their innovations to investors, hoping to secure financial and technical support from leading global technological companies. This kind of funding has the potential to catapult their innovations onto the world stage and to positively impacting thousands of lives in Africa. IT News Africa has the full report.

    “Africa is full of problems. But these problems present opportunities for innovation and what we are seeing is local developers shaping technology for the world,” says Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Africa Initiatives at Microsoft, which under the 4Afrika Initiative was a Platinum sponsor for this year’s DEMO event.Through Microsoft’s continuing work with developers, the company has come across several applications which are spearheading local innovation, two of which focus on supporting and strengthening healthcare:

    access.mobile: ClinicCommunicator Matibabu

    ClinicCommunicatoris a web-based application that allows hospitals and clinics to automate communication to their patients through SMS. This includes appointment and medication reminders, updates on test results, health alerts and tips to stay healthy. Eight prominent East African hospitals have already signed on to trials of the service. Entrepreneur Kaakpema Yelpaala developed the app. He was a recipient of a Microsoft 4Afrika innovation grant. “ClinicCommunicator eases difficulties of patient scheduling, feedback and follow-up, saving on lost revenue, costly patient communications and other inefficiencies in patient engagement for African hospitals and medical practices,” says Kaakpema. “We hope to build additional healthcare products that are relevant for more people across Africa.”

    Matibabu is an app that detects malaria. It was developed in Uganda. Using a Kinect sensor and a mobile device, Matibabu detects a person’s malaria status without blood samples or a laboratory. The standard method for determining whether someone has malaria is drawing blood and viewing it under a microscope, which requires health workers and facilities that are scarce in many low-income countries. Now there is a simple, cost effective and pain free way to determine someone’s malaria status. The device the team developed can be plugged into a smartphone and can detect malaria using only light. Results are available in seconds and the smartphone can email them and map them for epidemiological purposes. In 2013, the app competed in the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition and won the United Nations Women Empowerment Award.

  • Zapmedic connects patients to doctors

    Zapmedic, the flagship product of Bitways startup, in Uganda, has launched an online medical appointment scheduling service that aims to ease the process of finding the right doctors on line. Zapmedic is a mobile and web app for both doctors and patients. Patients are able to schedule an appointment and check in online, while the app manages the doctor’s daily appointments.

    The aim is to improve access to healthcare by helping patients and medical practitioners find one another easily and conveniently. Zapmedic has been selected as a finalist for the fourth edition of the PIVOT East mobile startups event in Nairobi on 24 and 25 June.

    An article in Africa Health IT News quotes Bitways’s Chief executive officer (CEO) Wasswa Samuel saying “Our country has one of the lowest doctor to patient ratios, meaning getting access to doctors remains a huge challenge. We thought that if we could make details of these doctors available and provide direct access to them, perhaps we could in a small way improve access to these doctors.”

    The latest figures suggest that Uganda’s doctor to patient ratio stands at 1:15,000, well below the recommended WHO ratio for Africa of 1:10,000.

    The app is currently being piloted by 26 doctors in two hospital chains. The results so far are positive. The app registers anywhere between 20 to 50 appointments per week. Zapmedic charges each practice as it uses its platform to send out appointment reminders, confirmations and prescriptions.

    Wasswa Samuel plans to scale up the initiative and make it more widely available.