Vodacom Business and mobile business specialist, Mezzanine, have developed a mobile platform to drive the uptake of mHealth in Southern Africa.

In a recent interview with eHealthNews, Vodacom Business Executive Head of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Industry Vertical Solutions, Tony Smallwood, and Managing Director of Mezzanine, Jacques de Vos, discussed the partnership and the importance of mHealth in improving healthcare delivery.

Vodacom Business initially entered the eHealth space in 2008 when it identified the opportunity to establish itself in the emerging South African mHealth market. “Our mandate has since grown to look beyond South African boarders to see how we can improve mHealth and M2M projects on a broader scale,” said Smallwood.

In 2011 Vodacom Business joined forces with Mezzanine to incorporate Mezzanine’s health information exchange platform into Vodacom Business’s strategy of providing mHealth services to meet the region’s growing health needs.

According to de Vos, the partnership was well suited because both organisations share the same primary objective: “to use mobile technology to increase access to healthcare while decreasing the cost of quality healthcare service delivery.”

“Our partnership has created a uniform mobile access platform for medical devices, which we hope in the long run will lead to the defragmentation of South African healthcare and increase the development of the local eHealth market,” continued de Vos.

Over the last three years mHealth projects focusing on community care management, patient management, workforce management and stock management have been rolled out across Sub-Saharan Africa using the platform.

de Vos explained how the platform is being used from strengthening ward-based outreach programmes to managing baby vaccinations. “With a mobile device healthcare workers can execute calls and send treatment plans to patients, manage patient records and even organise referrals and follow ups; our solution is dramatically reducing the reliance on paper-based systems,” said de Vos.

There’s also a vaccine management programme that is live in Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania that aims to prevent stock outs as well as promoting awareness about the importance of vaccines. “Our solution helps organise the stock management supply chain by decreasing wastage and increasing productivity; there’s a clear cost benefit for the provider that indirectly affects the patient,” said de Vos.

de Vos concluded by saying he believes the stakeholder’s perception and associated policies around the acceptability of eHealth should change in order for eHealth to be fully accepted in South Africa. “We need to replace paper-based systems with eHealth systems. For this to happen it’s important to package the eHealth proposition to buyers so that they believe the values exceed the cost of the solution, because ultimately time is money in healthcare.”

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