As we’re now all too aware, COVID-19 caused an unprecedented global healthcare crisis. The pandemic put intense pressure on healthcare, which in most parts of the world saw the highest level of demand in a generation. Medical services struggled under reduced capacity, high patient needs and the urgency of required care. But it was also a period of widespread digitalisation in the sector with a 350% rise in online consultations and record investment in healthtech companies during 2020. Today, there is no doubt that technology and healthcare are becoming inseparable.
While the levels of healthtech adoption vary widely among countries, the increased efficiency that it offers cannot be disputed. The digitization of health records, mobile app technology, wider use of messaging tools such as WhatsApp among medical professionals, electronic storage of medical records, big data and the Cloud are just a few examples of technology implemented in the healthcare industry. These solutions make the storage, management and transmission of data infinitely more efficient than their manual counterparts.
Patients can now access healthcare remotely from everywhere, keep track of doctor's appointments using mobile apps and receive electronic reminders to take their medication. The wider use of technology means that they can be diagnosed quicker and obtain lab reports and medical history without even leaving their home. All of this leads to improved patient outcomes and reduced costs.
The end result is certainly beneficial to everyone involved, but the challenge can often lie in implementation. So what can be done to overcome this? And how can healthcare providers use technology to benefit patients and pursue their essential goals?
The Dakshas Foundation - 3,5% to 7% of people in India become marginalized every year because of healthcare costs.
Bharat Sharma, Coordinator of The Dakshas Foundation, represents an organization that helps marginalized patients get non-emergency medical treatment in India. Their mission is to ensure that healthcare is delivered, not denied. Dakshas' healthcare partners provide their unused capacity for these patients at variable cost.
Unfortunately, 3,5% to 7% of people in India become marginalized every year due to healthcare costs, which is around 60 x 106 people. The Dakshas Foundation has tracked this number for over a decade, and found that the issue lay in an increasing number of cases and not enough doctors to deal with them. At the same time, other parameters, such as the availability of beds, were improving. The foundation began to take on patients, assess them and prescribe medications. Their input meant that 80% of the patients were seen and discharged as a primary case. Only 2-10 % of patients needed to see a specialist, and 1-5 % had to be taken to hospital.
Initially, Dakshas conducted all its work manually which was naturally time-consuming. Then, they came with an idea to create a platform that could assess patient needs. Thanks to the foundation’s partner Virtusa, in early 2020, right before lockdown, it launched this platform and transferred all paper data into a digital counterpart. The system is straightforward to use. Patients can register at any time and ask for a prescription which they can then receive directly through the platform or via text message. If someone does not have access to the Internet, they can go directly to their local pharmacy to pick up the medication.
While the team’s goal is to gain access to more information such as bed availability at hospitals or operating theatres, the platform is already a huge success. To date, they’ve managed to register 42,000 patients; they’ve treated 12,000 people and performed 220 surgeries. As they’ve dealt with so many primary cases, they’ve saved 1,656 days of specialist doctor time. Now, they are looking for worldwide partners. They would love to spread their idea globally and be a part of a sustainable economy.
The Lily Project - When Anielka Medina was a teen in rural Nicaragua, she experienced her mother's excruciating battle and death from cervical cancer, and that was when her life's purpose became clear: protect women and their families from this horrific disease.
The Lily Project is a non-profit organization which aims to create healthier futures for women and girls in Nicaragua through a women-driven model of development and care. Susan Cotton is a co-founder of The Lily Project & Anielka Medina is the Executive Director.
Anielka Medina has a very inspirational story about why she started The Lily Project. Its mission is to support women in Latin America, based explicitly in Nicaragua. It provides women and girls with the necessary sexual education and screening to help them avoid cervical cancer and to understand and spot the symptoms.
In Nicaragua, there is a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases and a concerning lack of sexual education. Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death because of limited access to healthcare, and the government does not approve the HPV vaccine. The Lily Project was created in 2016 and began its work by providing sex education among rural communities in Nicaragua. Vital information about sexual health was shared with more than 40 000 women, and half of them underwent screening for cervical cancer.
At the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, the project had to find new ways of communicating with its beneficiaries. That’s when they started exploring the use of audio and video messages as a means of providing sexual education, all through the use of the messaging app, Whatsapp. It turned out to be a huge success. Women in Nicaragua were very fascinated by this project, and they were actively responding and asking questions.
The Lily Project is now planning to scale its ideas and create an Android app. They are actively working on a concept and have partnered with Tech To The Rescue to find the perfect IT company to help them with the process.
Hospital Support - a platform created to support medical staff in hospitals
At the beginning of Covid-19 in Poland, hospitals quickly ran out of many much-needed hygiene products, such as protective masks, gloves or gowns. At the same time, many healthcare professionals found themselves working around the clock without sufficient meals and fluids. The population began to mobilize itself to support hospitals in providing the necessary items, but they often didn’t know exactly what was needed or where to deliver it. That's when the platform that became known as Hospital Support came up with an answer.
Jakub Jasiczak’s idea was to create a 'help for help' platform where hospitals could declare their needs, donors could report what items they could provide, and coordinators could arrange the transport. He and his team began looking for an IT partner who would help them bring this idea to life. At the same time, they came across a newspaper article in which Salesforce had declared that it wanted to offer its services to support the pandemic efforts.
Jakub Jasiczak got in touch with the CEO of Salesforce in the States, and received a positive answer within 2 hours, with a free licence worth over 1 million Euro per month. With his scientists and IT support, he created a platform with an effective frontend and UI, as well as a fully-functioning registration system within 2-3 days. It was not easy to get in touch with all available hospitals in Poland, but in the end, they managed to sign up 244 hospitals, recruit 357 coordinators, and involve 297 nursing homes - all in the first two months alone. The platform quickly became a big success.
Meanwhile, the team focussed on creating interactive maps supported by Tableau. These showed hospital and nursing home needs and a map of available coordinators in the region. When the pandemic in Poland showed signs of slowing, Ukraine asked Hospital Support for a similar solution. Jakub Jasiczak’s team built a second version of the platform under the logo of helpmed.in.ua, which also proved highly successful. Today, they’re looking to develop an open-source platform for times of crisis. Private individuals could ask large companies for any kind of help: from donating products to hospitals to cleaning windows in a retirement home.
These stories were presented during a webinar organized by Tech to The Rescue (TTTR) on the 24th of March. The host of the meeting was Filip Sobiecki from Netguru. If you want to know more - feel free to watch the whole webinar online: https://youtu.be/qMrGn8pxeNY