Ugandan healthcare service delivery company, The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG), is effectively using technology to provide easy access to timely and relevant health information from qualified health professionals to improve the health outcomes of patients.
TMCG was launched in August 2013 as a telehealth solution to the lack of doctors in Uganda, which stands at only one doctor for every 25,000 people.
“Surveys show that 60-70% of the reasons that take people to hospital do not actually require them to go to hospital physically. Most of them can be resolved remotely by a medical professional’s interpretation, reassurance and direction,” said Managing Director at TMCG, Dr Davis Musinguzi.
“Mobile technology and medical call centres in particular provide an avenue through which a small team of health professionals can serve a larger number of people without physically being present,” continued Dr Musinguzi.
Essentially a call centre, TMCG uses unified communications, underpinned by mobile technology and the internet, to provide a free service to patients who require a medical consultation with doctors, pharmacists or other healthcare professionals. Patients can get advice on anything from emergency contraceptive, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, or chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. If the health issue can’t be resolved by their staff then the patient is referred to a medical facility.
The call centre can handle up to 60 simultaneous calls and uses UNICEF’s RapidPro open source software for SMS engagement which, according to TMCG, can handle tens of thousands number of SMS interactions per minute. To cater to patients from various socio-economic backgrounds, TMCG has the capacity to handle up to 8,000 voice calls per day, unlimited SMS messages and unlimited email, video chat and social media interactions.
“The more the richness of the media communication, the more effective; video is more effective than messaging (with images and audio recording capabilities), which is more effective than voice calling only. The challenge is with the limit of bandwidth and cost of internet to entirely rely on video, thus messaging is the preferred option,” said Dr Musinguzi.
“Over the last two years, we have noticed a growing trend with social messaging platforms becoming more popular and being used as the preferred mode of communication. They are very affordable to the users – especially youths, allow more prolonged engagement and provide an avenue for adding multimedia like pictures and prescription notes,” continued Dr Musinguzi.
Based on the data collected from call centre interactions, which is stored on servers that are hosted locally and backed up in the cloud, TMCG has determined that 98% of the health inquiries are resolved through their service at a much quicker rate if the patient had to access healthcare through a traditional, in-person service.
Due to the success of their service in Uganda, TMCG plans to officially launch its operation alongside local partners in Kenya and Nigeria in 2017.