The challenge of taking top end healthcare solutions available in urban hospitals to rural areas so that the continuum of care is levelled out across all socio-demographic strata is vital to South African healthcare.
A variety of advanced technology solutions designed to achieve this were revealed at the Philips Live! Innovation Experience in October 2017. The multi-pronged innovations connect people, technology and data seamlessly, tackling the rising incidence of cardiovascular disease through early detection and treatment. At the same time, a suite of products ensures that communities in low-resource settings that do not have easy geographic access to care, and who are often forced to travel to bigger centres for treatment, can now tap into accessible, affordable and quality primary healthcare.
Access to care
South Africa’s first Mini-Community Life Centre (CLC) in the mainly informal suburb of Diepsloot in Johannesburg was launched on 18 August 2017 and is already treating about 1200 people a month, with mother and child healthcare the priority. The Diepsloot CLC makes it the third such facility, following the introduction of CLCs in Kiambu and Mandera counties in Kenya, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Integral to the CLC is the Outreach Kit that supports community health workers and midwives to diagnose and refer patients for further treatment.
Previously futuristic innovations that are now possible include a portable ultrasound machine, weighing just 2.5 kg, and a hand-held blood analysis machine that delivers results almost immediately; with no more frustrating waiting time and enabling healthcare workers to identify high risk patients earlier and reduce the time from diagnosis to treatment. The last of this trio of healthcare products is a battery-powered monitor to accurately measure breathing rates; one of the key signs to diagnosing pneumonia.
Since chest X-rays and laboratory tests are not available in low-resource settings, healthcare workers diagnose pneumonia by observing and counting how quickly a child’s chest rises and falls, but achieving an accurate count can be difficult. Since pneumonia is responsible for more than 900 000 deaths a year; the majority in developing countries in low-resource settings, this monitor is literally a potential life-saver.
The impact of cardiology solutions is most significant. Integrated systems talk to each other and make data available where and when it is needed for lifesaving diagnosis and treatment – particularly in the case of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which accounts for 210 South African deaths each day. The number one killer worldwide, claiming for 17.3 million deaths each year, CVD is largely preventable.
This has culminated in what can be termed the cardiology “Big Five” – innovations that successfully speed up detection, diagnosis and treatment, driving more effective recovery and home care.
Image-guided therapy enables clinicians to perform a wide range of routine and complex procedures, while physiology and intravascular imaging for coronary and peripheral applications help them to decide, guide and con?rm the right therapy for the right patient.
Ultrasound systems now boast automatic anatomy recognition and protocols for automatic functionality – making examinations easier to perform, more reproducible, and delivering new levels of clinical information Lastly, state-of-the-art monitoring systems simplify access to patient information and augment diagnostic support. They easily integrate into a hospital’s existing IT infrastructure.
Healthcare provision in South Africa – and indeed in Africa – is an ongoing challenge, but these recently launched innovations pave the way to accessible, affordable, quality healthcare across all strata of society.