Lessons learnt from Mxit help app sign up to fight Covid-19

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Lessons learnt from Mxit help app sign up to fight Covid-19

The hospital app reduces the number of caretakers required per patient from 14 to four

Reporter
A new cellphone app, Signapps, will be implemented in hospitals to help fight Covid-19 and keep health-care workers safe.
Joining the fight A new cellphone app, Signapps, will be implemented in hospitals to help fight Covid-19 and keep health-care workers safe.
Image: 123RF/Wavebreak Media Ltd

Andrew Davies, who learnt some good lessons after losing $55m (about R1bn) with Mxit, has come up with a new app to gather novel coronavirus data. It is being tested in SA hospitals.

Signapps, which went into the market three years ago, was actioned last week, with Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban being the first to start using the platform to record patients with Covid-19.

Signapps CEO Andrew Davies.
the brains Signapps CEO Andrew Davies.
Image: Supplied

The new feature will give hospitals an on-time calculation of where patients are and where they are in terms of recovery.

Most importantly, it helps limit doctors’ exposure to the virus because all the information goes to their cellphones.

Davies said the app means only four caretakers will need to come into contact with a patient — the admitting doctor, doctors treating the patient, nurses taking care of the patient and, if very ill, the caretaker intubating the patient so they can breath. He said usually 14 caretakers come into contact with a Covid-19 patient.

Other caretakers include registering doctors, heads of wards, pathologists, isolation ward staff, professors and researchers and so on 

The app looks much like WhatsApp and functions similarly.

“We are aggregation practitioners. What we learnt from Mxit was that the tech got too complicated. It’s not anyone’s fault. It was built pre-smartphone, so when smartphones came out with easier chat apps, we became the dinosaur,” said Davies.

“What we found was that doctors in hospitals were communicating with each other through WhatsApp. The tech is very simple and easy to use, but it is not secure and, in the interest of the patient, we need to ensure their personal information is secure.” 

The app is usable with the already established technologies from other hospitals.
Andrew Davis

Davies said every hospital group was using its own technology to integrate patients records, usually for billing purposes.

Signapps, he said, was like the glue.

“The app is usable with the already established technologies from other hospitals. We knew we needed to integrate different technologies on this app because we learnt it the hard way with Mxit, when we had to physically code the tech to 4,000 new phones on the market. WhatsApp could be used on all smart devices.”

How it works is quite simple. As a doctor sees a patient they record all the info onto the app using their smartphones. If the patient needs to see a specialist, pathologist or have other scans or tests, the aligning practitioners will be added to a case. If a scan comes through or a patient is transferred to another facility, their medical history can be shared in real-time with doctors involved in the case.

An example of a patient profile using Signapps.
sneak peek An example of a patient profile using Signapps.
Image: Signapps

Practitioners are also able to use the app to converse and keep a record of their conversations and diagnosis or recommendations. However, the information is kept private, with only the doctors involved and the hospital having access to the records. 

The Covid-19 application, Davies said, was in response to calls to keep healthcare workers safe from the virus. 

“In Italy, 20% of the health-care workers fighting the virus died. Our [SA’s] long-term predictions are less than that. In SA we are looking to keep the health-care workers death toll to about 5%. We knew our app could help by reducing the number of health-care workers exposed to a patient.”

Signapps Covid-19 application will be used from the start at testing stations. 

Patients will be recorded from the time of screening and information they provide, including who they have been in contact with, will be readily available if they test positive. 

As soon as the test comes back positive, the hospital can have a bed waiting for them and treatment ready, using information from the symptoms screening. Therefore, the patient does not have to interact with waiting-room staff and so on.

Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital pulmonologist Dr Priya Maharaj said the app had the potential to solve the problem of connecting health-care teams about the care of Covid-19 patients. 

“It is on this basis that we are evaluating the Signapps product for the co-ordination of Covid-19 care.”

Mxit closed its doors in October 2015. At the height of its existence in 2013, 7.5 million people were using the technology. It was replaced by Blackberry Messenger, then WhatsApp. 

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