A South African developed healthtech app, Signapps, has been taken up by South African private hospitals as a tool to manage the escalating costs of COVID patient care.
Each day, the number of COVID patients needing care is increasing across the country and the overflow from state hospitals is being taken up by private hospitals.
In terms of a recent and unprecedented deal struck between private hospital groups and the Department of Health, the state will pay private hospitals a fixed fee per patient per day for COVID-19 care. Fixed fee agreements usually include hospital, treatment, investigatory and practitioner charges.
“The cost of care needs to be carefully managed within this fee agreement, This means that the need to contain costs without compromising patient care has become critical in the context of the partnership between state and the private sector,” says Signapps CEO Andrew Davies.
“Proactively managing costs and spreading thin resources across the volume of CoVID-19 patients now being admitted into CoVID-19 facilities is proving to be challenging,”
Adapting to contained costs
Early on in the pandemic, Signapps was adopted by hospitals and practitioners to better manage their time and resources, and ultimately to minimise the risk of frontline workers being unnecessarily exposed to patients with CoVID-19.
“Signapps streamlines patient care by enabling doctors and specialists to diagnose and provide valuable input to treatment for CoVID-19 patients from any location based on the information supplied by caregivers in isolation wards.
This has put the practitioners in a position to cover more patients more efficiently without compromising care. We have seen our biggest successes from what is referred to in the industry as capitated (fixed) fee structures. It’s a model that we are familiar with and one in which our technology can bring several benefits in the Covid context,” Davies said.
In just a few months, the company adapted Signapps to be effective in the context of the pandemic. “We saw the urgency and started with State hospitals. Now a number of private sector groups have incorporated the app into their care pathways for CoVID-19 care.
In State hospitals Signapps is provided for CoVID-19 care at no cost. The situation is becoming critical, particularly in areas like the Eastern Cape and Gauteng, so we are working hard to make Signapps operational in as many hospitals as possible,” adds Davies.
Keeping frontline workers safe
“An additional benefit for practitioners, is the safety factor for practitioners, now being able to provide input to care of critically ill patients without necessarily having to be directly exposed to the patients in the isolation wards,” says Davies.
Doctor reports are encouraging. One infectious diseases specialist working in a CoVID-19 isolation ward in a private hospital in Johannesburg said, “There has been an enthusiastic uptake of the Signapps application in our CoVID-19 unit. It has allowed succinct patient centered messaging, smoothing over complex discussions that come with working in a multi-disciplinary team. It has also enabled those doctors not directly involved in the patients care to contribute to meaningful, nuanced decisions regarding patient care. We envisage engagement growing as we deal with the complexity around working with high volumes of patients as we head towards peak”
Transition of Care
“Practitioners on the front-line are under enormous pressure both physically and psychologically. Technology has a pivotal role to play in alleviating their burden,” Davies says.
The Public Private Partnership developed around CoVID-19 care is unprecedented and has the potential to create an important reference model for NHI. We view this as an opportunity to innovate around the handover of care between Public and Private Healthcare facilities and leverage technology to manage our scarce resources (healthcare workers and budgets) more efficiently for the ultimate benefit of patients,” he concludes.