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Wireless Reach Celebrates Continued Success of South Africa Mobile Health Information Systems

In 2010, Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach initiative helped launch the Mobile Health Information System (MHIS) project to improve the ability of health care workers to care for their patients. Participating nurses received 3G wireless broadband devices so they could access locally relevant, dynamic, clinical information online. The devices were pre-loaded with treatment guidelines, which kept them up to date on the latest health information for the communities they served. Prior to our involvement, nurses had to rely on outdated printed material to help treat their patients.

In Phase I, 50 nurses in three hospitals at the Port Elizabeth Health Complex were trained to use the devices. The project’s success was astounding: 100 percent of nurses reported they would continue using the mobile devices upon the completion of the program, 89 percent indicated their nursing practice was enhanced by making information accessible at the point of care and 92 percent said it was helpful to carry the devices in the field. These results strongly indicated that the nurse’s ability to treat patients was aided by the mobile devices and up-to-date content.

As a result of these findings, Wireless Reach began Phase II, which extends to include doctors as well as nurses in rural areas, serving three urban and five district hospitals and ten community health centers, including 125 new participants (62 of which are doctors using tablets and 63 nurses using smartphones).

This summer, I traveled to South Africa to attend a project training session, which included six nurses, all of whom had never before been exposed to the Internet.  Seeing them connect to the world in an instant was truly remarkable as there was no longer a limit on the amount of knowledge they are able to obtain. Attending the training made me realize that not only is the project helping to bridge the digital divide, but it’s also helping to close a substantial gender gap. The participating doctors are mainly men and have been previously exposed to the Internet through their careers. On the other hand, all of the nurses, mainly women, had never before had the opportunity to access the Internet. Now, through the use of mobile technology, the women have access to the same information as the doctors and they are learning and collaborating with each other in ways that would not be possible without wireless broadband.

Once we conclude Phase II, our focus at Wireless Reach will be to shift the project to the local teams so they can continue to sustain, manage and scale the initiative on their own.  We are pleased to report that all of our partners in South Africa are enthusiastic about the continuation of MHIS. Moreover, we are working with MTN to extend coverage throughout the Eastern Cape so that nurses and doctors can download new resources whenever and wherever they please. The continued proliferation of connectivity will undoubtedly further the success of the program. This project will continue to grow and, at Wireless Reach, we are constantly thrilled at the new prospects mobile technology inspires. The success of MHIS reflects the opportunities that wireless technology fosters, and shows just how powerful the extension of the human network can be.

For more information on Wireless Reach, please visit our website.

For more information on the MHIS project, please visit: here.

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