Local digital health solutions developer, Aviro Health has launched a new patient-facing platform, called Ithaka, to guide and support patients through their health journeys with the goal of linking them to care.

Through the secure mHealth platform, patients have access to customised journey support, reminders for medical appointments and chat support, and are even rewarded for their engagement with the app. The current implementation of the platform is reverse-billed on all networks which results in zero cost to the user.

“For many patients, the early stages of being diagnosed with an illness are quite overwhelming with vast amounts of new information and complex instructions they are expected to understand and follow. This, coupled with financial and/or emotional distress often leads to many people dropping out of the system and only being seen again when the symptoms of their illness have progressed, negatively impacting their long-term prospects,” Aviro CEO, Dr Musaed Abrahams, told eHealthNews.

“Health clients need to be guided in their health journey by providing the correct information at the correct time and place for them to understand and take ownership of the health journey. Aviro has been working in the field of HIV/TB for the last five years so this has been evident from our discussions with patients/health clients and we responded to the call. From self-testing guidelines, to referral options and frequently asked questions, Ithaka is a knowledgeable digital health steward that patients can turn to for help on their terms and in an environment where they feel comfortable, ” continued Dr Abrahams.

According to Aviro, healthcare providers who use Ithaka are empowered to increase the uptake of critical disease management tools and services; reduce costs of patient coordination and avoidable complications; improve the provision of services; and improve visibility into patient experience and challenges to the continuum of care, such as stock-outs and service problems.

Aviro COO, Luke Shankland, explained that Ithaka was developed over multiple iterations using human-centred design and a strong focus on using empirical evidence to support design decisions.

“The platform is carefully designed to meet patient needs by using innovative tools such as interactive video and unique patient paths to engage and monitor patients. This reduces the burden on healthcare workers so that they can concentrate on higher-touch health services,” said Shankland.

During the development process, Aviro went through a six month design-process with numerous user workshops and testing, with all feedback contributing to the minimum viable product (MVP) that meets international data management standards. “This was of particular importance as privacy, confidentiality and data security were at the forefront of our concerns,” said Shankland.

The live-testing of the Ithaka platform started in early October 2018 with the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) as part of their HIV self-testing programme (STAR).

Aviro recently announced a partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in which the organisation will implement Ithaka to support their new digital HIV youth counselling syllabus, MSF Youth 2.0.

“MSF and Aviro have partnered to revitalise the current HIV counselling models, specifically focusing on the Youth/Adolescent cohort. A user-centred approach has been used to define the content strategy, technology development and implementation of a new media/technology solution,” said Dr Abrahams.

“A video counselling syllabus has been produced by Aviro and Echo Ledge and will be housed in Ithaka with youth testing beginning from 1st December,” concluded Dr Abrahams.

Two other partnerships that will pilot Ithaka have also been announced. The Aurum Institute and Johns Hopkins will implement Ithaka to support their in-clinic HIV self-testing model in early 2019; and the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will implement Ithaka for their youth HIV in-clinic and self-testing programmes. Piloting will begin in one district from January to March 2019, followed by a full-scale implementation in five districts.

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