A mobile healthcare platform is to play a key role in the delivery of medical care for South Africa’s cancer patients, thanks to the partnership between local tech businesses Alignd and Signapps.

Called Signapps Care, the locally developed platform is a mobile messenger and web-based application, which provides a secure and user-friendly channel for healthcare professionals to collaborate and share confidential patient data.

“Palliative care for cancer patients requires a unique and individual response to patient needs, as well as the collaboration of multiple medical professionals. These include palliatively trained doctors and nurses, social workers and spiritual counsellors,” says Alignd co-founder Shivani Ranchod.

Patient wishes central

“The Signapps platform ensures that the patient is the focus of the medical collaboration, facilitating quick and seamless co-ordination of care. Medical files and updates can be shared easily and confidentially, enabling appropriate responses by providers,” she adds.

The Alignd value-based healthcare model for metastatic or advanced cancer patients is aimed at bringing affordable and appropriate care, which benefits all role players involved including medical schemes.

“End of life care costs the medical scheme industry an estimated R12-billion annually. Often this care is aggressive and inappropriate with most patients dying in hospital, where their preference would be to die at home,” Ranchod says.

Alignd’s aim is to provide a workable alternative, which places the wishes of the patient at the centre of the care conversation,” she adds.

According to Signapps co-founder Andrew Davies poor communication costs the global healthcare industry as much as $340-billion annually (Institute of Medicine Data). Over 70% of all mishaps could be prevented if communication channels were optimised.

“Facilitating real-time conversations between healthcare teams, patients and families in the palliative care space, is fundamental to patients being able to die in their place of choice, receive the highest quality of care from a diverse and distributed team, while delivering a cost effective service at the same time. This is what Signapps is designed to enable,” he says.

Medical schemes out of sync

Palliative care has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global health priority with South Africa being a signatory to the resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2014. This resolution recognised the ethical responsibilities of all parties within the health care system to provide adequate palliative care.

Despite this, current fee-for-service models provided by medical schemes are out of sync with the realities of palliative care. In addition, current contract mechanisms and benefit design do not incentivise value-based-, team-based- or home- based care, which is best practice for palliative care. This results in disillusioned doctors, fragmentation and funding frustrations.

“Critical to the introduction of a value-based approach to funding palliative care is the establishment of trust between medical schemes and healthcare providers,” Ranchod says.

“This is where Alignd plays a key role. Using a combination of innovation, data analytics and a desire to bring the patient’s life to the fore, we believe we have a model that benefits all stakeholders and incentivises them to collaborate for the greater comfort of the patient and their wellbeing,” she point out.