Mpilo app: Will using technology improve Gauteng’s healthcare?

The cellphone app needs about 100 megabytes to download and is only zero-rated for Vodacom users. (File photo)
Written by Thabo Molelekwa

Mpilo is a new app to make patients’ lives easier by providing a seamless communication system, but some are asking if this is what the provincial depart actually needs.

The Gauteng Department of Health has launched a digital platform called Mpilo, which means health in isiZulu. According to the department, the cellphone app has been created as a mobile communications platform aimed at strengthening the patient-care experience across Gauteng health facilities.

Handling feedback 

“One of the key priority areas… is improving the patient experience in our facilities. The app will allow us to handle complaints better on a case by case [basis] and furthermore will allow us to understand some of the challenges and frustrations of our patients in facilities,” says Gauteng health’s spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

Previously, complaints were reported using a semi-automated process and were dealt within 25 days, as per the prescribed process. “The use of digital technology will allow the department to improve on the said prescribed resolution days,” says Kekana.

She explains that the app is designed to improve the patient experience in the facilities by providing a smart and interactive platform for users to report waiting times in facilities, safety issues, staff attitudes, and cleanliness of facilities.

But Health-e readers criticised the department for developing the app, instead of investing the resources to develop the app into improving health services in facilities.

How to get the app and possible expansion 

Currently, the app is available on both Android and IOS platforms via its respective app stores. The department says there are plans underway to accommodate people without smartphones. “The department envisaged to have this capability at the beginning of the third quarter,” Kekana adds.

The complaints section of the app. (File Photo)

 The app didn’t go to tender process because according to the GPDOH, they have an existing contract with Vodacom which they utilised. Kekana explains that the Vodacom/government partnership started three years ago. 

When the idea of an app came about in July 2019, Vodacom was engaged to be part of the development. “The department’s ICT provided the requirements and Vodacom provided the development capacity,” she says. 

Data costs are taken into consideration 

When users download the app, they need to have at least 100 megabytes to do so. “The cost of data is concerning and hence the approach to introduce the USSD capability which is less data-intensive. Work is underway to reduce the app size, without losing the essential functionality,” Kekana adds. They are working on ensuring there is no data cost incurred by the patient/app user. 

Mpilo is zero-rated on the Vodacom network, however, the department says its currently engaging other network providers to agree to a similar model which will result in no data cost to the app user.

Kekana says the Gauteng health is facing many challenges but believes the app is also part of solving some of the challenges they face.  “The Gauteng health system is facing a number of challenges, improving patient experience is one of them and the app will go a long in helping the department improve the quality of care to patients.” – Health-e News 


About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98