Broadening the reach of health services through cloud

Using cloud to support and strengthen health service

Making health management manageable

Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative, works with access.mobile to extend the reach and efficacy of health services. This start-up focuses on improving access to healthcare in Africa, implementing innovative solutions in partnership with healthcare providers to address significant gaps in the infrastructure around this vital need.

Not only are there often insufficient clinics and hospitals in many cities, but patients often struggle to access the facilities that do exist – through a lack of road and transport infrastructure. Additionally, patients with chronic needs often require ongoing support, and healthcare workers can be stretched thin with thousands of people to assist.

According to the World Bank, as much as 80% of Africans rely on public health facilities but these often face shortfalls in both medicines and skills. Further research has found that despite carrying a huge healthcare load – around 24% of the world’s disease burden – Africa only has 3% of the global health workforce. And the consequences of this are literally life and death: life expectancy in Africa is 15 years lower than the global average.

Technology has the power to transform healthcare around the world, and especially in Africa. Not only can our smarter, faster learning machines help in analyzing and researching disease and treatment options, but they can support healthcare workers in reaching those who need them, and in communicating with chronic patients who require continuous care

The growth in mobile technology is democratizing communication tools on the continent – and pairing this with cloud-based tools, we can unlock the full potential of these services and extend their reach. Founded in 2011, access.mobile is a digital health company that uses mobile and cloud-based technologies to improve access to and quality of healthcare in emerging markets.

One of its solutions, amHealth, is an affordable, secure and easy-to-use technology, which simplifies practice management and improves patient engagement.

Cloud for scale and access provision

“Now imagine the doctor can communicate by text or through a mobile channel to help remind the patient of the things they need to do. And at the same time, build a nice relationship between that doctor and the patient where the patient feels like the doctor cares.” – Kaakpema Yelpaala, founder of access.mobile

Access.mobile won an innovation grant from Microsoft 4Afrika, receiving financial and technical support over the last three years. Through this, access.mobile has developed and scaled-up their solution using Microsoft Azure. Today, amHealth is being used in over 150 health facilities throughout Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria, supporting nearly 1 000 practitioners to reach about 2 000 000 patients.

One of access.mobile’s clients is Amref Medical Centre. Phyllis Onsomu is a nurse at Amref. She says that clients forgetting their chronic medicine or not receiving the results of tests are two typical challenges. “If patients don’t come for their medications or their check-ups, they have more problems,” she says.

Through the support of access.mobile, Amref now uses a patient management tool to remind people about their appointments, their medication refills, and treatment regimes. This takes a lot of administrative work off the hands of the healthcare workers and improves the health and quality of life of patients.

“Clinic staff have been giving us positive feedback, and patients are very happy about receiving communication from their providers.” – Joana Aine, customer success executive, access.mobile

A growth path for broad access

With the ongoing support of Microsoft, access.mobile's amHealth continue to evolve and grow, providing a simple but effective tool – that requires minimal training. Features of the solution includes: Practice administration, patient record management, group and individual messaging for medication, appointment reminders, outbreak alerts, and even appointment calendars.

And because of the uptake of mobile technology in the region, healthcare providers can now engage with patients on a platform that they are already using and comfortable with. Together with thousands of dedicated health workers, the system works to strengthen the patient-provider relationship through practical, affordable and usable digital health solutions.

Access.mobile says Azure adoption has been key for them: “We are using Azure for three related reasons. Firstly, the African IT decision makers we are interacting with are increasingly accepting world-class cloud infrastructure, such as Azure, for their data hosting and management needs. Secondly, the cloud enables us to scale our solution across many providers and countries in a cost-effective manner.”

“Finally, through this scaling approach and our Uganda-based software team, we are able to make the product very affordable, lowering the barriers of entry from a cost perspective for hospitals to use our system.”

In addition to the amHealth system, access.mobile has also launched a new website and app, Gozee, to support consumers in the health market to better understand their healthcare options and find healthcare providers.

The history with 4Afrika

As one of the first innovation grant recipients, access.mobile has been receiving financial and technical support from Microsoft 4Afrika since 2014. This has included:

  • Training and mentoring on software development best practices for AM developers
  • Volunteer consultants worked with access.mobile to support the company on a growth strategy and scaling across African countries
  • access.mobile technologies run on Azure, providing secure cloud infrastructure for their enterprise customers in the health sector
  • Strategic collaboration with Microsoft Kenya and other offices to drive impact in the health sector through solutions and Microsoft innovations

“With basically every facet of the business that’s required for growth, Microsoft has provided some level of support. As we’ve grown our user base, our clients have wanted data on messaging campaigns and the impact on patients. And we found Microsoft’s cloud-based technologies to be a very effective tool to integrate with our platform and provide easy-to-understand analytics that help our doctors and health providers see the value.”
– Kaakpema Yelpaala (KP), founder of access.mobile