Patients living with Hypertension and Diabetes in Ghana are now experiencing a unique and more personalised form of care with the introduction of a mobile application with self-management tools. The app has built-in protocols that allow patients to enter their daily blood pressure (BP) and blood sugar measurements to be monitored and managed remotely by their doctors in real-time.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes and cancer are the leading causes of death worldwide, representing an emerging global health threat. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that by 2030, NCDs are expected to become the leading causes of death in Africa. In Ghana, Hypertension is a common cause of medical emergencies such as heart failure and kidney failure.
Over the years, it has become increasingly challenging to sustainably include and retain the growing numbers of people living with NCDs in care using the current service and pricing models. The NCD Care programme, introduced by global health organisation PharmAccess, and Luscii, a digital health innovator, has improved access to care for some patients who have been on the app since its introduction.
The user experience so far has been positive, with testimonies about its user-friendliness. Speaking to journalists on NCD Care as part of the Global Week for Action on NCDs, Baaba, who is one of the users of the app, said: “The app is very convenient. I was introduced to the programme by my doctor and was given my own monitor, so I can check my BP from the comfort of my home”.
With the NCD Care programme, patients measure and input their BP or blood sugar measurements in the mobile app, and their doctors receive automatic alerts which provide information on the patient’s health condition, enabling them to reach out through phone or messages as soon as risks are detected.
The mobile app allows patients to be delegated to appropriate care based on risk levels, do self-monitoring, and access health information, lifestyle advice, and medication reminder messages. The mobile app helps individuals to modify their behaviour through lifestyle management, medication adherence, and education. As most African health systems are severely under-funded, innovative solutions that provide affordable care for the growing patient groups are urgently needed.
Partnership originated in COVID time
Luscii Healthtech, PharmAccess Foundation and University of Ghana Medical Centre started collaborating early in the COVID pandemic with a mobile application called COVIDConnect. The app and service developed by Luscii and OLVG hospital in the Netherlands was successfully scaled to three African countries with the network and support of PharmAccess. The service enabled people to self-check for symptoms that may be caused by the coronavirus. Due to the app’s versatility, it was adopted for monitoring two non-communicable diseases with high prevalence: diabetes and hypertension. Now called ‘NCD Care’, the digital service complements Ghana’s NCD strategy in line with the national health policy. The NCD pilot has started with three hospitals: University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), Greater Accra Regional Hospital (GARH) and 37 Military Hospital.
Responsiveness and participation of medical staff
Medical staff in the hospitals have been trained, and medical teams are adjusting the structural flow of work to integrate the use of the app. The responsiveness of the medical teams so far is commendable. After receiving alerts of irregular blood and glucose levels of their patients, 65 percent to 75 percent of the alerts are processed within 48 hours, depending on the type of alerts given.
The programme is meant to improve health outcomes and the responsiveness of the participating medical staff, with emphasis on self-management, prevention and management of complicated cases.
Country Director for PharmAccess Ghana, Dr. Maxwell Antwi, explained that since the inception of the programme, patients have been enthusiastic about measuring their blood pressure and blood glucose at least twice per month. Apart from improving health outcomes for patients, the pilot has also improved the participation of medical staff, with emphasis on self-management, prevention and management of complicated cases.
According to Dr. Maxwell Antwi, PharmAccess and Luscii share the ambition to bring the digitally enabled chronic care model to the market within the next three years. For this to be a success, they will optimise to improve outcomes and expand their network of collaborators, including clinicians and healthcare investors in the countries.
The PharmAccess Country Director thanked the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), and said: “We have been able to make a three- year plan with Luscii and optimise the mobile monitoring service. With these promising first results, we are hoping to expand in Ghana and beyond, so we can improve health prospects of the millions of Africans still waiting to receive care for NCD’s’’.
Dr. Ronald Scheffer, co-founder of Luscii, said: “We hope to improve clinical outcomes for patients with NCDs and reduce healthcare costs. We have seen strong results on reduction of unnecessary hospital visits and improved quality of care in Europe. Our proven technology has the potential to have even a bigger impact in Africa and especially NCD care. With this multi-year partnership we are taking the next step to make our dream of revolutionising healthcare become reality”.
PharmAccess aims to make inclusive health markets work in sub-Saharan Africa. The PharmAccess integrated approach addresses both the demand and supply side of the healthcare system, and uses the opportunities that mobile technology and data provide to leapfrog development in health markets in sub-Saharan Africa, with the aim to inspire viable and resilient health markets that provide access to care for millions of people in Africa.
Through public-private partnerships, PharmAccess focusses on promoting health insurance plans and other innovative demand-side financing options to protect people from financial hardship; introducing quality standards and improvement methodologies for healthcare providers; loans, business support, and investments for private healthcare providers; and introducing value-based healthcare solutions to empower patients, doctors and financiers alike.
Luscii has the ambition to revolutionise healthcare with the aid of technology so that visits and admissions to the hospital can be prevented. With Luscii’s digital healthcare concept and apps for iOS, Android and the web, doctors and nurses can guide their patients remotely and directly from their electronic patient record through remote monitoring and video calling. Over 60 care pathways have been designed, making it possible to support patients and improve care for every type of disease. Today, Luscii is reimbursed by 94 percent of insurers and is active in almost 50 percent of Dutch hospitals and eight countries. Luscii is an Apple Mobility Partner and has a global, strategic partnership with OMRON Healthcare. More information can be found at: www.luscii.com.