Vodacom Business’ investment in mHealth solutions will see schools and clinics in the Eastern Cape, and around the country, get better access to healthcare services like hearing screening.

As the first network to provide an array of mHealth solutions, Vodacom Business is scaling up the country and the province’s capacity to provide primary healthcare at a more affordable rate to more citizens using mobile phones, apps and devices all powered by Vodacom‘s fixed and mobile infrastructure.

Speaking at the Eastern Cape ICT Summit, Vodacom Business Chief Officer, Vuyani Jarana said: “ The Eastern Cape province is sparsely populated with a population of 6 million spread over a land mass of 168,966 square kilometres. Healthcare facilities are thinly spread over these wide geographies, meaning that people need to travel or sometimes walk long distances to get into a clinic.”

“Deployment and use of healthcare technology is very limited in a province that needs appropriate technologies most. Our investment in healthcare technologies is part of our commitment to partner with the province, to bridge the gap and deliver healthcare in the community, in schools and in clinics,” continued Jarana.

The National Departments of Health, Basic Education and Social Development’s integrated school health policy requires that all grade one pupils be screened for hearing. Yet, the prohibitive cost of clinical hearing tests and long distances to community clinic means that most communities, especially in rural and remote locations, are rarely or never exposed to early detection of hearing loss or impairments.

In South Africa, about 7.5 percent of school children suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss with the vast majority not detected early as a result their language and cognitive development is impacted. Through early detection, appropriate interventions can help minimise this. “The earlier children with hearing loss start receiving services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential,” said Jarana.

hearScreen, powered by Vodacom, allows clinical hearing tests to be conducted via a smartphone. This solution can be operated by untrained personnel, and is integrated into a cloud-based data management system for quick and easy access.

Other mobile health solutions made available by Vodacom Business include a first-of-a-kind pregnancy monitoring device, Sense4Baby, which is used in the case of women with high-risk pregnancies. The device can be used at home or shared by remote clinics and as a result of this; the requirement for clinical visits several times a week is reduced.

In addition, connected health solutions to help community healthcare workers captures patient information with an android application are already being rolled out in clinics in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State Provinces.

Based on a centralised mobile and cloud environment, Vodacom’s mHealth services allow healthcare or technology providers to help improve their access to patients. This is done through secure, real-time data collection, information processing, management and reporting.

“These are non-capital expenditure intensive systems, which are rapidly deployed to broad-based health outreach workers and patients even in the most remote areas,” said Jarana.

Vodacom Business together with Mezzanine, have already successfully developed a mobile based stock visibility solution available to dispensing facilities to capture stock levels on a daily basis. The information synchronizes in real time to a cloud-hosted server that automates alerts and reports for the benefit of various levels of supply chain management. This ensures that the healthcare facilities have access to medicine where it is needed, when it is needed.

“Mobile technology is uniquely powerful in addressing some of the biggest healthcare challenges. Our job is to continue to work with the government partners and health experts to develop relevant and innovative solutions that will meet the country’s growing need for quality healthcare services,” concluded Jarana.

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This article has been revised for accuracy.