Aviro Health in collaboration with Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) has launched a new WhatsApp channel for their Ithaka platform to support users through their HIV self-testing journey.

Aviro launched their patient-facing mHealth platform in August 2018 to guide and support patients through their health journeys with the goal of linking them to care.

The first pilot of Ithaka was carried out in partnership with Wits RHI’s STAR self-testing programme to support the clients’ HIV self-testing journey.  So far the ongoing pilot has served 1,000 patients with strong preliminary results. However, the most common feedback from users was that they would appreciate a WhatsApp channel.

In response to this Aviro and Wits RHI developed a WhatsApp channel, a process which included user focus groups with both users and the Wits RHI team.

“We were excited to develop a WhatsApp channel as we believe it provides a comfortable and supportive environment that allows anonymity, control and convenience of use between health professionals and patients,” said WRHI eHealth Lead, Mothepane Phatsoane.

“We hope it also strengthens the communication and relationship between health providers and patients,” continued Phatsoane.

According to Aviro Operations Manager, Lebohang Lebelwane, the development process took six weeks from proposal to MVP testing, with a further six weeks of development and refining. “Being smaller than our competitors in the Health Ux field, we focus on being agile and responsive to our client and user needs,” said Lebelwane.

Lebelwane noted that of the sample test group, 80% of users stated that they felt the channel to be trustworthy and would report their test results.

The WhatsApp Self-test app is currently live and Aviro plans to officially launch the WhatsApp channel as an add-on to the Ithaka platform in mid-February. Users will then have the option of deciding which channel to use to assist them through their HIV self-test process.

“Users want a responsive health provider and being able to access the service on various channels makes users feel supported,” said Aviro Health WhatsApp Lead, Laeeqah Galant.

“We’re excited that this new reporting channel provides many opportunities for optimisation through language customisation, media (video and image sending/receiving) and real-time support for patients (FAQs). We hope to continue to drive an increase in patients reporting their HIV self-testing through the channel,” continued Galant.

Aviro has also adapted their platform to support their partners – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Aurum Institute and the Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) in their projects supporting HIV testing and patient linkage to care. These platform versions are expected to launch in March 2019.

“The Ithaka platform is multichannel, reverse-billed and we will continue to iterate and refine based on client and user needs,” said Aviro Founder and CEO, Dr Musaed Abrahams.

Dr Abrahams added that for the near future they are focusing on improving the product for users and partners by iterating on the UX, including making it more responsive and chat-friendly, and improving their data-mining and AI capabilities.

“This will improve the impact of the tool for our partners and give them more insights into how they support their patients; most importantly, it will give seamless and valuable support to the users and empower them through the testing and linkage to care process,” said Dr Abrahams.

“We are always looking for more partners as we look to scale up the tool in the medium term to new geographies and to supporting other point of care diagnostics, including STDs and Zika,” concluded Dr Abrahams.

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