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With the ever-increasing cases of Covid-19 in the country, the Department of Health turned to mobile technology as a solution for improving critical access to healthcare in Gauteng. This solution came in the form of Mpilo, a healthcare app launched in 2019 by Vodacom Business in partnership with the health department.

At first, the app was designed to support improved service delivery and patient experiences in Gauteng’s healthcare facilities by enabling users to report waiting times and facility cleanliness, safety issues and service levels including the attitude of staff towards patients. “Today, Mpilo’s expanded features have enabled Gauteng health facilities to navigate the pandemic through improved Covid-19 education and symptom tracking, while also offering the public quick and easy access to ambulance services,” explains Poppy Tshabalala, Managing Executive of Public Enterprise at Vodacom Business.

“The Mpilo app was created to strengthen the patient-care experience across health facilities. It has since evolved with the introduction of a number of essential health care services that can be accessed free of charge, at users’ fingertips,” continues Tshabalala.

To date, the Mpilo app has 61 467 active users, with Vodacom Business and the Department of Health introducing a number of additional features to accelerate the digitalisation of government services and improve the efficiencies within South Africa’s healthcare sector.

Since its launch, this patient-engagement platform has not only eased communication between patients, doctors, and the Department of Health; it has also improved service delivery at provincial health facilities.

Ambulance assistance in times of need

One of the biggest value-adding features was the introduction of an ambulance-request capability, allowing users to call an ambulance in emergency situations, with Mpilo accurately detecting users’ geolocation. Vodacom Business also integrated and implemented a Fleet Management solution into the Departmental Ambulances which made it easier to request and digitally locate ambulances amongst other functionalities.

Further additions included a One-Time-Pin security feature to protect against hoax calls, and the second is the ability for the caller to answer questions about the seriousness of the incident for which they need the ambulance.

“While features like this were planned and implemented within the app, the Covid-19 pandemic required a different approach and response,” says Tshabalala.

The Covid-19 response feature

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Health introduced additional features to the app to help increase public education and awareness. Most importantly, contact tracing and self-screening features were introduced, which aimed to improve the efficiency of the collection of daily information of confirmed Covid-19 contacts in the province.

After completing the self-assessment, a report is submitted to the department through the app and results will be communicated to the user. The app has also been zero-rated by Vodacom to ensure it is free and accessible to all users across the country.

Eliminating medical-stock shortages

Another initiative Vodacom Business has undertaken is eliminating medical stock shortages within clinics across the province. As part of fulfilling the RT15-2021 contract with Government and in line with Vodacom’s ongoing partnership with the Department of Health, Vodacom Business has introduced additional medicine-monitoring measures, which has been particularly crucial in the context of the pandemic.

This is made possible through an application-based solution known as the Stock Visibility Solution (SVS). This digital solution provides real-time access to stock-level information from medicine dispensaries, allowing low-stock clinics to be proactively replenished and out-of-stock facilities to receive priority attention, ensuring that citizens can access the healthcare they require without delays.

The information synchronises in real-time to a Cloud-hosted server that automates alerts and reports for the benefit of various levels of supply chain management. Upon deployment at 3 162 of the 4 121 registered clinics across eight provinces in the country, the Gauteng Department of Health has been able to closely monitor critical supply chains as well as compare volumes of medicines on the shelves of dispensaries that have been centrally purchased. The solution itself has processed over 33 million stock updates, with a 94% stock submission rate.

“These figures are a welcome sign in the turning tide that Vodacom Business is looking to usher in for a future characterised by equal access to quality healthcare that all citizens deserve. The Mpilo app and other digital solutions such as the SVS, have proven essential in not only improving healthcare access to South Africans, but also vastly improving administration efficiencies,” ends Tshabalala.