Johannesburg based medical technology company, MDG Health Solutions, is rolling out mobile clinics in rural Southern Africa to improve access to services and relieve the travel burden of patients seeking healthcare.
CEO at MDG Health Solutions and Chairperson of the South African Medical Device Industry (SAMED), Marlon Burgess, explained that “rural areas also include locations close to cities, such as townships, where it’s difficult to access quality and appropriate healthcare services.”
MDG Health Solutions entered the mobile clinic industry this year to join five other providers in the local market. “Last year we attended a mobile clinic conference in the US where there were 30-40 local vendors represented, which is only a fraction of the total number of vendors in the country,” said Burgess. “One of the take aways from attending the conference was that all the mobile clinics in the US are linked to a central server that the US Department of Health and Human Services has access to that allows them to see the social impact the clinics have. This is the kind of level we’re working towards in SA.”
According to Burgess, mobile clinics that provide primary healthcare and telemedicine services are steadily growing in demand in SA. “For example, radiologists want to feed images remotely through a PACS that would allow them to diagnose a patient and then send back results,” said Burgess. “I believe telemedicine will take off in a big way because the demand is there.”
Burgess stressed the importance of taking the patient and clinician perspective into account to understand how to adapt the vehicle to specific scenarios and ensure efficient clinical workflows. “Primary healthcare has a reputation of having fragmented workflows. When a patient moves through the system from, for example, a regional clinic to a specialist hospital it’s crucial to have a well-structured system that uses technology as a communication tool to ensure continual, quality care,” said Burgess.
MDG Health Solutions is currently working with the public sector to provide vehicles to NGOs, such as the Anova Health Institute, who then use their own human resources, in most instances nurses, to run the mobile clinics. “We are also working with other great local organisations and entrepreneurs like York Zucchi; we provide the vehicles and he provides the IT system,” said Burgess. “We are constantly on the look out to work with similar credible partners who know the local landscape and are helping to create jobs.”
Burgess explained that telemedicine and mobile clinics are already standard practice in countries such as the UK and India to carry out mobile screening services. However, those countries essentially have urban models of deployment while SA requires a rural solution. “Private organisations like Netcare offer mobile services in the UK but not here in Africa. So one has to ask ‘why the disconnect?’ The local private sector hasn’t seen the value of mobility just yet, however, we hope to be at the forefront of changing their perception,” concluded Burgess.