eHealth supply system
Over 50% of the African continent has rural areas which have low infrastructure. This has led to a domino impact with regards to the provision of services. Many rural or remote communities have limited or no access to basic medical care. In 2018 the publication The Conversation complied a report which found that 28% of women of child bearing age lived more than two hours away from the nearest hospital making it more difficult to get medical assistance when pregnant or when the child falls ill. In reality the distance people have to go to receive medical care in many rural areas becomes a hurdle.
In such instances access to medical care becomes a privilege or an unstainable practice for those with chronic conditions. The use of ehealth to broaden the access to medical care, challenges the status quo with regards to the delivery of medical care to hospitals and patients in remote areas. This creating great business opportunities in various communities. The United Nations has reported that the goal set for universal health coverage under the Sustainable Development Goal by 2030 would require for at least one billion people to have access to essential healthcare.
eHealth is not just taking information to health care practitioners but also providing much needed support with the delivery of medication to patients with the use of interesting methods.
The use of drones for the delivery of medical supplies has had a significant impact in remote areas. First trailed in Rwanda, the company Zipline has since expanded its services to other countries in the region. Ghana in collaboration with Zipline has established the world’s largest vaccine drone delivery network. The network has four distribution stations which will function 24/7. Orders are placed via text, phone call and most commonly sent through WhatsApp. Delivery is received within 30 minutes, each distribution center is equipped with 30 drones and will be able to reach almost 2000 health facilities. The drone will deliver close to 148 different vaccines, blood products and lifesaving medication.
The South African National Blood Service ( Sanbs) created its own drone known as the TRON Drone. The drone was developed with the goal to tackle the high mortality rate among women during childbirth across the continent. The drone will be able to deliver O-negative blood from the blood bank in emergency cases. The TRON Drone will also be able to collect blood from patients to deliver to the blood bank.
One of the most common frustrations with collecting medication from public health facilities is waiting in long queues. At times the long wait is in vain as patient’s medication or prescription is not available. However there are projects tackling this issue and achieving this through, making the collection step digital.
PeleBox is a smart locker system that dispenses patient’s chronic medication. When patient’s medication is ready, a text message is sent with a unique code to open the locker. The smart locker allows for patients to control their repeat medication under 22 seconds compared to the traditional routine of waiting for hours in a queue. There are currently 13 machines operating in Gauteng, South Africa. Founder Neo Hutiri aspires to scale to about 50 machines to reach 100 communities over a 5 year phase.
South African based company Right ePharamacy launched an ATM that dispenses chronic medication. Patients are able to access their medication by simply scanning their ID card/book or pharmacy card along with a pin. Patients then receives access to a remote pharmacist who will request the prescription. The medication is automatically dispensed, labelled and dropped in the collection slot. Patient receives their medication along with a slip that informs them of their next collection date. The company also sends text messages as a reminder. ATM Pharmacy is currently available in various cities in South Africa, namely; Alexandra, Bloemfontien, Soweto and Diesloot.
Door to Door
Startup projects are using different ways to get medication and medical supplies to patient’s homes and community hospitals. The Last Mile Project in Tanzania used Coca-Cola’s distribution mechanism to deliver to pharmaceuticals. Since 2010 the Coca- Cola brand arranged for medication to be delivered by their truck’s going to remote areas in the country. Before the project only 40% of medicine orders were being delivered to pharmacies, since then the availability of medication has increased by 30%.
AfriMedico provides door to door everyday medication. Inspired by the traditional Japanese Oku (to place) and Kusarr method, the company has added a modern twist by using a subscription model. A salesperson delivers the box to the client and sends a picture of the items in the box to the server. With the use of AI and sensors the company is able to track client’s medication use and charge them for the items they used.
Life Bank in Nigeria has attained much success with its medical distribution model. The company has been able to connect hospitals with blood supply and enable the tracking of the blood through their block chain powered system. Life Bank has since developed an app that allows for volunteers to register to be blood donors. Life Bank has also expanded to Air Bank which is an on demand medical oxygen delivery service.