Communication between physicians and patients is believed to be the foundation for effective treatment. It surely contributes to better medical care and increases patient satisfaction. Especially during difficult times, patients and their families look to their doctors for answers and support. No wonder they want their physician to always be accessible. However, it seems that effective physician-patient communication is becoming more and more difficult to achieve. Independently of the part of the world and the current epidemiological situation, it is not easy for doctors to meet all their patients’ needs – both in terms of influencing their behaviors and making life-saving connections.
It may result from the complex and quickly changing health care environment, for sure. But in the face of rapid technology development and with all kinds of mobile devices and specialized apps, we should observe the improvement in the way the contact between doctors and patients is conducted. Doctors, nurses, and medics should have fewer problems when communicating in ways that are easily accessible and responsive to patient needs, don’t they? Well, it seems that all of it may become much more possible now.
Health care outside the medical facilities
The project’s creators understand well that overcoming communication problems is key to improving health – especially for patients in remote locations, facing social-cultural pressures, or exhibiting low health literacy. Through a dedicated global public health (GPH) organization that combines research and development, global access programs, and local operations, they ensure fair and equal access to the critical solutions that save lives, cure patients, and prevent diseases from spreading.
One of the ways to realize its mission in practice is the Connect for Life™ project that supports access to health information whenever a straightforward contact is straitened. The Connect for Life™ application enhances the information exchange between medical workers and patients to help manage their health better. Patients are able to stay in touch with their doctors simply by using mobile phones.
Additionally, thanks to a secure PIN, access to all information is private, which prevents patients from facing stigma and social pressure. Healthcare professionals, on the other hand, can track their patients’ daily medication intake and important data, like missed appointments or symptom reports. The obtained knowledge helps to undertake appropriate actions. It is possible for the doctors to send short and actionable messages to motivate healthy behaviors – through health tips and adherence reminders.
How Connect for Life™ works
The Connect for Life™ app aims at intensifying the communication between medical workers and patients (as well as their caregivers). Its main goal is to provide the latter with regular guidance in terms of the treatment plan as well as to offer valuable feedback on the progress towards recovery. What is the mechanism behind it?
Specifically, the Connect for Life™ platform provides Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and SMS text functionalities, such as medication reminders, clinic visit reminders, health tips, and functionality to support symptom reporting. At the clinic and program level, data collected through the Connect for Life platform allows health care providers and program managers to track the patients’ therapy progress, analyze results, create reports and planning capabilities in order to improve service delivery and strengthen the health system. All the information is captured on an electronic dashboard allowing to easily integrate patient data, messaging, medical records, and lab results in a single and accessible place.
The idea put into practice
In order to understand the impact of the Connect for Life™ project, it is good to take a closer look at its first implementation in India. In 2016, SAATHII, a non-profit NGO, launched m-Maitri – an initiative to educate pregnant women on techniques to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. The support program included a Connect for Life service to provide HIV positive pregnant women with voice health messages on their mobile phones. Topics that were covered included information on nutrition, safe delivery practices, infant care, and the importance of HIV treatment adherence. The service also sent automated reminders when an infant diagnosis test or immunization was due and collected responses about treatment adherence rates. Results were shared with community health workers who selected the women that were most in need of immediate and closer follow up. It is safe to conclude that, by connecting directly with mothers, the Connect for Life™ system offered an effective way to share potentially life-saving information.
The technology and Soldevelo input
The Connect for Life™ application was originally built upon the MOTECH Platform. The platform is an open-source enterprise software package that connects popular mHealth technologies to unlock new outcomes toward strengthening health systems. It does so by using mobile phones to deliver and receive information from patients and caregivers.
The SolDevelo team was involved as MOTECH experts during the solution implementation in India. We provided support to the TCS team that we collaborated with – either by advising or making necessary corrections to the platform based on their requests. We were also reviewing the code submitted by the TCS team, improving the quality of the Connect for Life system wherever necessary. Finally, we were responsible for the transfer of the Connect for Life™ system from the MOTECH platform to the OpenMRS platform and adjusting the latter so that it fits the Connect for Life™ requirements. Since then, Connect for Life™ has been successfully migrated to OpenMRS.
Conclusions for the future
It is no secret that a successful and uninterrupted interaction between physicians and patients can motivate the latter to seek knowledge and actively participate in the treatment process. And this, in turn, may lead to a better quality of care and improved health outcomes. Because of that, there is a growing demand in today’s increasingly tech-savvy society for health management services being handled via the Internet and mobile devices that may help to overcome access challenges. The Connect for Life™ project surely shortens the distance between patients and healthcare professionals, making it easier to access quality care – even in the most remote locations in the world.