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The World Health Organization (WHO) states that millions of people don't have access to healthcare and must travel far distances to consult a medical professional. Millions more have to choose between their health and other day-to-day expenses. This is why the theme of 2019’s World Health Day (7 April) is universal health coverage. And with new medical technology being created every day, providing medical care to those in need – no matter where you are in the world – is becoming a true possibility. Here are some developments that are changing lives.
Machines, automation, robots – these words generally inspire apprehension in workers in any industry. But we’re still a long way off from the robots we know from sci-fi movies. Instead, automation is a more immediate reality, and not a bad one either. It means supply chains and processes can be optimised, which saves time and money, and doctors can spend less time on admin and more time with their patients.
The chatbot is another tool that is helping to simplify processes. It can assist with basic queries, such as making an appointment, which lessens the pressure placed on call centres. Two useful Facebook Messenger chatbots are Florence and Cancer Chatbot. Florence reminds patients to take their medication and can find the nearest medical facility. Cancer Chatbot provides resources and support for cancer patients and their caregivers.
Medical mobile apps will also streamline processes. Apps could help manage resources, such as staff, beds, equipment and capacity in the emergency room (ER). Vodacom’s Stock Visibility Solution (SVS), for example, allows clinics to check stock levels daily. This data is then sent to health departments via SMS and email and enables pharmacy supply chain management to be more accurate and efficient.
There are also apps that allow doctors and patients to send information remotely. You can send images of skin conditions, burns and wounds to your doctor using Tissue Analytics, and local app Vula connects doctors in rural areas to specialists in city hospitals.
Companies are also looking at how machine-learning devices, such as smart watches or phones, could monitor patients remotely. These devices could detect an irregular heart rate or alert you should your grandmother experience a hard fall, for example. As machines gather more data over time, they could also inform you if you’re at risk for diabetes or stroke and tailor treatment plans to your individual needs.