Mxit veterans help hospitals streamline COVID-19 patient care

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 22 Jul 2020
Andrew Davies, CEO of Signapps.
Andrew Davies, CEO of Signapps.

The South African-developed Signapps telemedicine platform is helping SA’s private and public hospitals to efficiently manage coronavirus (COVID-19) patient care and mitigate the risk of infection.

Signapps is a local health tech company developed in 2016 by Andrew Davies, former COO of SA’s pioneering Mxit social media platform, and his business partner Michael Gluckman, who was head of data at Mxit, which shut its doors in 2015.

It specialises in the development of mobile messenger and Web applications to provide secure, compliant and user-friendly channels for medical professionals to share confidential patient data.

The multi-faceted telemedicine software facilitates collaboration and rapid response to patient needs by enabling healthcare workers to conduct conversations, share medical files and make updates easily and confidentially, from a mobile device.

The platform can be also used by the hospital’s finance departments for administrative and cost management functions.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Signapps was adopted by hospitals and practitioners to better manage their time and resources, and ultimately to minimise the risk of frontline workers who may be exposed to patients with COVID-19, according to the company.

Hospitals which have deployed the software include Charlotte Maxeke, Johannesburg General Academic Hospital,Life Healthcare, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Red Cross Children’s Hospital and EdendaleHospital.

This as SA reaches almost 382 000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with over 208 000 recoveries and 5 368 deaths recorded this morning.

“Signapps streamlines patient care by enabling doctors and specialists to diagnose and provide valuable input to treatment for COVID-19 patients from any location based on the information supplied by caregivers in isolation wards,” says Signapps CEO Davies.

“We saw the urgency and started with state hospitals. Now a number of private sector groups have incorporated the app into their care pathways for COVID-19 care. The situation is becoming critical, particularly in areas like the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, so we are working hard to make Signapps operational in as many hospitals as possible.”

In state hospitals, Signapps is provided for COVID-19 care at no cost, according toDavies.

Telemedicine, the delivery of healthcare and the transfer of health information across distances using information and communication technologies,has proved invaluable in the management of the deadly virus, with many governments and healthcare systems advocating digital healthcare tools and virtual consults as the primary means of healthcare support.

In April, Vodacom and Discovery announced a partnership to deliver what they say is “a simple but powerful online healthcare platform for the benefit of all South Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Clicks and MediRite Group have also introduced telemedicine platforms for consultation services across their clinics.

An additional benefit of Signapp for practitioners, notes Davies, is the platform’s ability to keep frontline workers safe. This is done by allowing practitioners to provide input to care of critically ill patients without necessarily having to be directly exposed to the patients in the isolation wards.

One infectious diseases specialist working in a COVID-19 isolation ward in a private hospital in Johannesburg explains: “There has been an enthusiastic uptake of the Signapps application in our COVID-19 unit. It has allowed succinct patient-centred messaging, smoothing over complex discussions that come with working in a multi-disciplinary team.

“It has also enabled those doctors who are not directly involved in patient care to contribute to meaningful, nuanced decisions regarding patient care. We envisage engagement growing as we deal with the complexity around working with high volumes of patients as we head towards the peak.”

Each day, the number of COVID patients needing care is increasing across the country and the overflow from state hospitals is being taken up by private hospitals.

In terms of the unprecedented partnership deal struck between private hospital groups and the Department of Health, the state is paying private hospitals a fixed fee per patient per day for COVID-19 care.

Fixed fee agreements usually include hospital, treatment, investigatory and practitioner charges.

“The cost of care needs to be carefully managed within this fee agreement. This means the need to contain costs without compromising patient care has become critical in the context of the partnership between state and the private sector,” concludes Davies.